Thursday, January 27, 2005

The Copyrighting of Public Space

Following up on my post discussing the uselessness of Frank Gehry's "BP Bridge" at Chicago's new Millennium Park, a story in today's printed version of the Chicago Reader speaks to some other problems with the park.

This time the issues are not so much with the design, but with its use. In keeping with the contemporary trends of privatizing public space, Millennium Park is a copyrighted public space.


The Reader recounts the experience of photojournalist Warren Wimmer's attempts to photograph Anish Kapoor's sculpture, Cloud Gate (more commonly known as "the Bean"). When Wimmer set up his tripod and camera to shoot the sculpture, security guards stopped him, demanding that they show him a permit. Wimmer protested, replying that it's absurd that one needs to pay for a permit to photograph public art in a city-owned park.

Ben Joravsky, the author of the Reader article, attempted to contact park officials for an explanation and received a response from Karen Ryan, press director for the park's project director:
"The copyrights for the enhancements in Millennium Park are owned by the artist who created them. As such, anyone reproducing the works, especially for commercial purposes, needs the permission of that artist."

Hence, Millennium Park--a nascent destination for countless citizens and tourists that was built with $270 million in city funds--is slowly emerging as Chicago's most privatized public space. Photographers beware!

**Update** I've scanned in the original article from the Reader below. Click on the thumbnails to go to my Flickr page for larger versions.

Reader1 Reader2 Reader3

**Update--Feb. 13, 2005** Please see this recent post for updated discussion of the city's interest in enforcing the copyrights of the park's "enhancements."