If a picture is worth a thousand words, then it's a good bet that at least half of those words relate to the picture's copyright status. Art historians, artists, and anyone who wants to use the images of others will find themselves awash in byzantine legal terms, constantly evolving copyright law, varying interpretations by museums and estates, and despair over the complexity of the whole situation. Here, on a white—not a high—horse, Susan Bielstein offers her decades of experience as an editor working with illustrated books. In doing so, she unsnarls the threads of permissions that have ensnared scholars, critics, and artists for years.
Organized as a series of “takes” that range from short sidebars to extended discussions, Permissions, A Survival Guide explores intellectual property law as it pertains to visual imagery. How can you determine whether an artwork is copyrighted? How do you procure a high-quality reproduction of an image? What does “fair use” really mean? Is it ever legitimate to use the work of an artist without permission? Bielstein discusses the many uncertainties that plague writers who work with images in this highly visual age, and she does so based on her years navigating precisely these issues. As an editor who has hired a photographer to shoot an incredibly obscure work in the Italian mountains (a plan that backfired hilariously), who has tried to reason with artists' estates in languages she doesn't speak, and who has spent her time in the archival trenches, she offers a snappy and humane guide to this difficult terrain.
Filled with anecdotes, asides, and real courage, Permissions, A Survival Guide is a unique handbook that anyone working in the visual arts will find invaluable, if not indispensable.