Copyright Rules of New NYC Landmark Allow Owners to Use Anyone's Photographs for Licensing

Visitors to the newly-opened Hudson Yards, which is the largest private real estate development in the US, features a giant structure called Vessel. The 16-storey building is open to the public – but by visiting, you agree to hand over the copyright of any photos taken while there, and in doing so permit the company to use the images royalty-free worldwide.

Vessel is to be a permanent art installation within the new estate. With 154 flights of stairs, it offers the public great views of the city.

PetaPixel reports that eagle-eyed visitors to the new landmark noticed a clause written within the terms and conditions, which you allegedly have no choice but to agree to by obtaining a ticket. Under a section entitled "My Content" any photographs taken at the site are bound by "unrestrictedl" licensing by the company. The full text reads:

If I create, upload, post or send any photographs, audio recordings, or video footage depicting or relating to the Vessel. I grant to Company and its affiliates the irrevocable, unrestricted, worldwide, perpetual, royalty-free, sublicensable, and transferable right and license to use, display, reproduce, perform, modify, transmit, publish, and distribute such photographs, audio recordings, or video footage for any purpose whatsoever in any and all media (in either case, now known or developed later).

Naturally, many of those flocking to the Vessel to take skyline pictures are perhaps unknowingly allowing the company to use their photo for any purpose they see fit, without having to ask permission. What’s more, anyone taking a photograph is forbidden to use it for any commercial purposes, without the right permission from the company.

Are the owners within their right to do this, or are photographers being shamelessly exploited here?

Log in or register to post comments

49 Comments

David Pavlich's picture

If it's within the law, then that's that. The chances of me visiting that place are very close to 0. But, it would be fun to walk in with a 1DxII and a 70-200L and walk around and wait for one of the 'picture police' to ask to see the pictures that you took only to show them a blank memory card.

Michael Holst's picture

They don't take the photos from your card. They find them online once the photographer posts them to social media.

Robert Nurse's picture

That's just it. Is this clause within the law? Just because some deep-pocketed entity declares something doesn't make it legal or enforceable. We'll find out once this nonsense is challenged in the courts. Once THEY rule, THEN it's legal.

Kyle Medina's picture

You're on/visiting private property.

Robert Nurse's picture

That's fine. But, if a court challenge deems otherwise... Now, they can say, "... no photos please". I see this all the time in museums, theaters and other public and private spaces. But, whether you can invite someone to take photos and then presume ownership of said photos because of private property is another matter. The courts will have the final say if and when challenged.

wait..is it just stairs all around and nothing else? whats the purpose of the structure?

Jen Photographs's picture

It's an art thing, apparently. I don't think there's any real point to this.

Alex Yakimov's picture

Structure itself is beautiful. Reminds me of MC Escher’s works.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/M._C._Escher

Rob Mitchell's picture

All fair enough if you know beforehand. You do now.
Copyright on the 'image' of a building is nothing new at all, maybe in the US but in Europe it's already well established on several landmark buildings. Non-issue really, if you're going to use a building commercially, you negotiate the fee and it's in turn negotiated with your client. Same as if you use a private location for a shoot.

«…if you know beforehand.»
The thing is, you don't know before hand, because they don't tell you before hand. You buy a ticket, (probably non-refundable), and then they tell you.

«All fair enough….»
Not really. They have since made it more fair.

Rob Mitchell's picture

But, you know now. :)

Only those who read this article (or the PP article, or some other article), would know. The average person going there will not. The Vast majority will not. Contrary to the wants and desires of the Fstoppers crew, not everyone in the world reads every article on Fstoppers. Not every photographer reads every article on Fstoppers. Not every subscriber to Fstoppers reads evey article on Fstoppers.

One cannot justify it now because it had made news in a few places, (or in a great many places). A legal defence is not, “But Fstoppers ran an article on it, therefore they knew!”

It does not work that way.

What if someone else purchased your ticket ? What if a minor takes the picture I don’t believe they can agree to a contract

Dave Thompson's picture

How on earth is this legal? Sure it's far too broad and so sweeping. But I'm concerned that it sets a dangerous precedent whereby ticket sellers could write anything they want into a purchase agreement. For instance, a concert promoter determining that "...by stepping into the building, you agree that the promoter can use your own likeness for any purpose whatsoever, including promotion, PR, advertising, social media, apparel, etc., etc.

Oh, and while you're at it, you have 24 hours to remove the family photos you took at our landmark from your FB feed. They do not meet our branding standards, and you will be subject to litigation if they are not removed in 24 hours."

And how about "...the descriptions of our landmark you posted on social media, including your descriptions of the ticket lines as 'too long," and the ticket prices as 'highway robbery' have been deemed by our legal counsel to be detrimental to the success of the facility. You are subject to litigation if not removed in 24 hours."

If allowed to stand, it basically sets precedent that by stepping foot in any business or event, you give up all rights to everything. Including "...and you agree to hold harmless the promoters and owners, including if our negligence causes you harm or injury, including death."

ACLU, are you listening??

Michael Kormos's picture

They can write anything they want in their contract. Whether or not it's enforceable is another issue.

Michael Kormos's picture

I didn't realize you can sign a legally binding contract by simply visiting a place. I would be curious to hear from legal experts as to what they think about the legality and enforcement of this clause. Federal Copyright law grants the author sole and exclusive copyright, and I believe one has to sign a written document to grand a copyright license.

Robert Nurse's picture

By buying a ticket, you can be bound to certain stipulations. By going to a baseball game, I believe you hold the team, league, stadium and city blameless for any injury sustained due to the game: flying balls, bats, pucks, etc. But, I don't think copyright theft is included. I'm no lawyer. But, I don't think you can contractually agree to illegality.

I am curious too it this can be made legal. I don't know much about the law myself (and of course the law can be different in different countries)

Andy Barnham's picture

Which is why they don’t actually claim copyright; just a huge amount of use that may as well be complete copyright.

I think the original wording was clear. “right AND license.” They have since [19th March 2019] changed the wording.

Roger Davis's picture

It's being advertised as a "public space", but if this article is true, it is actually someone's private building which means the owners might have rules on what you can do inside of it but not outside the structure itself from the street. If it is a "work of art" then the artist may have restrictions on what you can do with the photos. If it is "public space" for all to enjoy, then you have given up that right. The Eiffel Tower is free to photograph and do as you please, but if you try to sell a photo of the tower with the light display (which I gather is copyrighted) then it is not. In practice, it would be difficult to enforce.

Patrick BALEYDIER's picture

Before republishing this news, you should take a few minutes to check it. The general conditions have already been modified.

Michael Holst's picture

What if someone took photos of it from the street and wasn't technically Inside the space? If they use the wrong image and don't research where it was taken from they could run into some issues.

Kyle Medina's picture

This is exactly where I see their first legal action will come from. Not something from within the grounds.

Still a copyrighted piece of art. They cannot just use the image, but if you publish, they can come after you for copyright infringement.

Cheaper for everyone involved to just cross-license.

I would say that it would be very hard for the building owners to enforce. No signed contract = no contract.

Robert Nurse's picture

LOL! They'd have to prove that I had a ticket.

Kyle Medina's picture

You're within the grounds, you had a ticket. If you're booking a ticket from online you're more than likely going to have your name attached.

More comments