Property rights discussion

Past-E-Mail: Cam Notes - 2003: March: Mar 15-03: Property rights discussion
by Dan Urbanski

The Pasty Cam is a growing visual archive of the beauty, history, people, places, and current events in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The daily pictures become a subject of discussion, with a variety of comments and viewpoints. Occasionally to facilitate certain threads of the discussion, and for readability, a sub-topic is established. This sub-topic is about Property Rights.
Walt Anderson, Lake Linden on Sunday, March 16, 2003 - 06:47 am:

At the risk of sounding like the Social Taliban, and since your photo of the barn has provided me with an opportunity to ask a question that has been on my mind:

Did you perhaps ask permission of the property owner prior to taking the photo of the barn?

Okay, two questions:

Is it ethical for a photographer to profit from the photography of others' properties?

Does the idea that 'it is okay to take pictures of others' properties' contribute to the general trend today of belittling private property?

Rerunning the "Social Taliban" idea: Although there are many who criticize logging, after witnessing hundreds of logging trucks heading south from the Copper Country, all I can say is I look arond me:


By Charlie Hopper, Administrator, Still Waters/Pasty Central on Sunday, March 16, 2003 - 07:55 am:


Just a couple of thoughts. First, Dan Urbanski provides his photos to the the Pasty Cam without cost, as do all of the other photographers, whether regulars or guests. It is a labor of love, to share a glimpse of life in the U.P., which the two photos above do quite nicely.

Every day, hundreds of thousands of pictures are taken of others' property, which contributes to the profit of the newspapers in which they appear. As with all freedoms, there must be responsibility. I'm sure the folks who own the barn would take exception to Dan if he had his photo lens pointed through their kitchen window for an extended period.

It could be argued that the value of the barn property has been enhanced by appearing here for folks all over the world to admire. But it is not our desire that the Pasty Cam become a place for arguments.

By on Sunday, March 16, 2003 - 09:14 am:

Photographers are very special people. All very respectful unless you are popperazzzziii (sp). Not to open debate but when I photograph an individual for the Pasty Cam, I ask permission. When I intentionally need to approach someone's property to photograph, I ask permission. Thanks to the "long lens" most photographs are taken from the highways of Michigan. I have found not one in the UP of Michigan refuse a photograph yet. This is a wonderful place to live and learn and the social rules of yesterday are in a constant flux today but it is still okay. Thankyou for your question Mr. Anderson and thankyou for your support Mr. Hopper. Sun's out how about another photograph...

By Marc Slis, Port of Galveston/Tamarack City on Sunday, March 16, 2003 - 09:51 am:

This photography conversation is very thought-provoking. Just last month I bought my first digital camara, largely due to this site and it's wonderful contributors, like Dan and Donn and Taka(love the downtown Houghton photo, it's my desktop out here in the Gulf and everyone comments on it!).
You've all given me food for thought as I venture out to capture the people and places I visit.
I'm sure Donn is right, in the UP, you'll probably never find anyone who would take offense to having themselves or their property photographed, especially for the famed!!

By on Sunday, March 16, 2003 - 09:56 am:

Thank you for your comments. You have just considered the great responsibility and power you carry in your hands everytime you venture out with that camera. Have fun and be responsible...

By j.a. former Lake Linden resident now in Texas. on Sunday, March 16, 2003 - 10:20 am:

If I was still in the U.P. I would be proud to have my property displayed on this fine web site for all the world to witness the beauty of Upper Michigan...permission or no permission. You do good work and people like me who grew up there and live elsewhere love to come home everyday to your site. Thanks...

By FC MI on Sunday, March 16, 2003 - 12:07 pm:

I wish for one entire day (we could go through the day) without anyone looking to cause an argument. I would be proud to see my homestead posted on I can see if it was marked "Private Property" and someone crawled underneath the gate, hid in the bushes and then snapped but come on.....people see your property as they drive by so what is the harm in taking a photo? It's a compliment. Please don't answer that. End of this topic. And like Charlie said these photos are all contributions for us to enjoy.

By tlm on Sunday, March 16, 2003 - 12:27 pm:

To Walt in Lake Linden:

My thoughts about your question kind of goes along with the legal standing of photogrpahy in criminal court cases. If the scene is visible from a public area, i.e. a road or highway, then you have no expectatiion of privacy. This is admittedly the simplistic example but I think it applies here. Maybe you are more troubled by someone making a profit from a picture of your property, but I don't see a difference. Unless something in the scene is protected by a copyright, if I can view the scene with my eyes, or even through a pair of binoculars, without encroaching on private property, then I believe that I can legally photograph it and even sell the photos.

(Not meant to be argumentative, just discussing the topic you brought up). If any of the professional photogs have a difference of opinion to this, I would like to hear your thoughts.

Have a good day.

By tlm on Sunday, March 16, 2003 - 12:34 pm:

Additional to Walt:

Went back and re-read your post. I guess my reply was in a "legal" sense and you asked the question more if it was "ethical".

By EM, MI on Sunday, March 16, 2003 - 01:15 pm:

Donn & Dan are artists with a camera. I could only hope to be a fraction as good someday. I have about 80 acres I would be proud to have you paint with your lens anytime:)

By Paul in Illinois on Sunday, March 16, 2003 - 02:55 pm:

Good discussion on photography. tlm is correct, if one can photograph something from public access, it is legal. Ethics are somewhat different. A barn is no big deal. Photographing a burning barn, house, or some sort of tragedy and not trying to help or calling for help and then profiting from the photos may be legal, but definitely not ethical in most peoples eyes. I have photographed mines and trains in the Copper Country for years. The ones shot from roads etc. required no permission. Those shot on the property required permission to enter and an explainatioin of what I was going to do. Now, post 9-11, one better have alot of ID and the means to explain one's self photographing railroads from public access. Railroad security and the police are very sensitive.

By Walter Anderson, Lake Linden on Monday, March 17, 2003 - 06:00 am:

Forgive me for not coming on-line and swooning at the wonderful photography. I enjoy the work as well as the words.

However, I believe the questions I asked are legitimate and all I ask for is an honest answer.
And I asked them here because of the format. I don't believe I am being argumentative.

I hazard to suggest that the concept of a photographer profiting from the photography of anothers property is an idea that few have considered.

I will go even further and suggest that the idea that "that view of the mountain is mine and you can't change it" is nurtured by the refusal to see that there is "value" in the appearance of a property.

And finally, I asked Mr. Urbanski the question, not because I believe he is profiting from that "value", but because I've seen his name associated with the pictures here often enough that I assumed he may have an opinion on the matter.

Thank you, Mr. Hopper, for this wonderful site and I would hope you give the matter some consideration.
Walt Anderson

By Mary Lou on Monday, March 17, 2003 - 08:30 am:

Walter, Lake Linden.....The sun is shining, the snow is melting, birds are coming back..... we survived another UP winter......... I came from Lake Linden and know how long the winters are...spring is almost here..please lighten up.

By Charlie at Pasty Central on Monday, March 17, 2003 - 08:31 am:


I entirely agree that there is an exchange of value going on in the process of photographing anything. It is a very complex exchange. Should Dan have charged the property owner for his time and expense, because the value of the property might in fact be enhanced by appearing here? Should the owner charge for the visual use of his property because Dan's career might be advanced as a result of his contributions to this website? Should we charge browsers for the experience it all creates? Is anyone coming out on the short end of the stick?

If you'll answer these questions, I'll be glad to answer yours.

By tlm on Monday, March 17, 2003 - 09:36 am:

Mary Lou-

It's just a civilized discussion.

Move along folks, nothing heavy going on here ;)

By on Monday, March 17, 2003 - 05:19 pm:

Right and wrong are moral questions that we all wrestle daily and there is no right answer. Social mores are constantly tested, changed, tested and changed again. Legal questions are either legal or against the law, black and white. Whoever has the time to do a nice ethical analysis of the question would be appreciated. What was the question? You gotta love this UP country, wildlife, people. I do!

By Walt Anderson, Lake Linden on Tuesday, March 18, 2003 - 05:27 am:

Is it right for someone to profit from the photos of properties that he sells for calendars, jigsaw puzzles, framed photography and website attractions without somehow acknowledging or paying a royalty to the owner?

Do we enable a tragedy of the commons by refusing to acknowledge the visually pleasing qualities of a property?

Who actually owns the appearance of a property? From coast to coast, people have petitioned government to force government to prevent a property owner from utilizing the resources of his property, people have actively sought to deny personal liberties through the appeal of visual appeal.

Are we encouraging the tragedy of the commons with our attitude? And will we eventually see an elite (as Garret Hardin would have it) controlling that appeal?

By encouraging government control of the visual appeal of property, are we in fact increasing the size of government that feeds upon itself, that finds finds problems are assets?

As the song goes: Whatja gonna do when they come for you?

By Charlie at Pasty Central on Tuesday, March 18, 2003 - 07:45 am:

Some complex questions, Walt, but I'm not sure that I understand what you mean by "tragedy of the commons".

Have a good day.

By Tom Cat on Tuesday, March 18, 2003 - 04:36 pm:

Take pictures and leave foot prints.

By Dan U, Silver City, MI on Tuesday, March 18, 2003 - 11:01 pm:

I know I shouldn't dignify the criticism with a response,
but it is true that US law allows us to enjoy and
photograph our scenic roadsides. On the other hand,
the law protects individuals from being photographed
without their consent.

Whenever I have encountered a landowner, it has
always ended up in a friendly exchange. That's how
people are here. No one has ever asked for monetary
compensation, but sometimes I surprise them with a
freee print. Then they often order more at my regular
price. This has been my experience for 25 years here in
the UP.

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