Monday, January 28, 2008

The 25 Simple Rules You Must Follow Before Publishing a Photo of Marina City

You may have seen our previous posts on the proclamations by the Marina Towers Condo Association that they have the right to forbid anyone from publishing photographs of Marina City who doesn't first get their permission and pay them tribute. Despite the absence of any substantive case law in support of their position, they declared the first amendment null and void.

That was delusional enough. Now they've published the actual "rules" on their website and there can no longer be any doubt: they've officially lost it. I dare you to read through any more a half-dozen of the 25 requirements (twenty-five requirements!) without beginning to laugh uncontrollably. In point of comparison: closing on a unit? Five requirements.

If you want to publish photographs of Marina City, here's all you have to do:
1. Give them your name, address and phone number.
2. Give the name, address and phone number of the person filling out the application, plus the name, address and phone number of any designated contact.
3. Profit or non-profit? Provide a copy of your business license.
4 What exactly do you want to do with the pictures?
5. Provide a mockup of how you intend to use the pictures.
6. "Identity each photograph or image which the applicant is seeking permission to use."
7. "Identify the target audience to which the media is directed."
8. The name, address and phone number of the person creating or maintaining the website.
9. Whatever other unspecified information the Association may later decides it wants.
10. Make a separate application for each web site or media type.
12. Pay a fee just for filing the application.
14. Swear you won't do anything that "will reflect negatively on or demean, the image or reputation of Marina Towers Condominium Association and condominium image."
17. Use a disclaimer, 14 point type minimum, which must read: "This site is not officially sponsored or endorsed by Marina Towers Condominium Association" or anything else the Association may think of later that it wants you to say.
24. "Applicant agrees to maintain insurance in such amounts as the Association deems appropriate and to name the Association as an additional insured."

As Anna Russell used to say as she related the plot of Wagner's Ring, "I'm not making this up, you know!"

Again, all of this just to use a photograph taken from a public way of a complex of buildings the Condo Association doesn't even own. (condo's take up only 40 of the towers 60 floors; all of the rest of Marina City is owned by someone else.)

Next to this, canonization is a streamlined process. The above, of course, is a selective Vulgate. The official version, three pages of delusional posturing, is, believe it or not, even funnier, approaching heights of absurdity Dada never even dreamed of. Download the complete document, pdf format, here.

Here's hoping they try to sue somebody. The exposure the board will receive, at escalating scale, (the media will eat it up) will grab all the attention their swollen ego's could ever desire. Just not the kind they're expecting.


Anonymous said...

Get a grip on it, Lynn. Try reading before ranting.

The Associaton's rules apply, on their face, only to "any person seeking to use the Association name or condominium image for business or commercial purposes ..."

The almost certainly have the legal right to limit commercial use of their name or image.

The Marina City rules do not apply to personal or editorial uses - that would violate the First Amendment.

You really ought to retract your off-the-wall assertions and wild misrepresentations of what the association has done.

Lynn Becker said...

And you need to go to the Marina City OnLine website for their coverage of the discussion over these rules. It made clear that they were attempting to trademark the building which, again, they don't own, to get payment for any uses. They even claimed they had already gotten such payment from an editorial entity, WBBM, which station manager Joe Ahern emphatically refuted.

How you ever seen a photograph of Marina City that carefully covered only the 21st through 60th floors? Have you ever run into anyone who had even the slightest interest in using the name Marina Towers Condo Assocition? Me either. The association is claiming rights over the entire building, and they are clearly claiming their trademark rights trump any first amendment considerations.

Anonymous said...

There are only 24 rules.

Lynn Becker said...

Have you looked at the PDF? It's numbered 1 through 25.

Anonymous said...


I repeat, and you haven't disputed.

The Associaton's rules apply, on their face, only to "any person seeking to use the Association name or condominium image for business or commercial purposes ..."

Ignoring my point doesn't invalidate it.

Lynn Becker said...

and simply requoting the text doesn't negate their intentions.

I suppose we'll just have to wait to see who they attempt to shake down, and how, to find out.

Anonymous said...

"In the original Articles of Incorporation of the MTCA (10/3/1977), the first Article states: "1. The name of the the corporation is: Marina Towers Condominium Association." and "5. The purpose or purposes for which the corporation is organized are: To maintain, operate, and manage a condominium residential building and improvements situated at 300 North State Street, Chicago, Illinois...". The restrictions and approval process found in the Association's new rule goes beyond their corporate purpose of maintenance, operation, and management of the facility.
The Declaration Of Condominium Ownership For The Marina Towers Condominium Association states at the top of Page 5, "...The Association shall not be deemed to be conducting a business of any kind." And on Page 6 of the same: "...In any case of conflict between the Declaration and the Bylaws or the Rules and Regulations of the Association, the Declaration shall govern."
Questions: If other users of the image or name Marina, Marina City, Marina Towers, etc. show no evidence or provide no claim to "maintain, operate, and manage" the residential condominium building, how can a photograph or a blog or independent website be a violation?
Further, if the MTCA, "...shall not be deemed to be conducting a business of any kind.", how can any outside representation of Marina City or Towers be deemed a deceptive BUSINESS practice?

Anonymous said...

I love the first comment above, especially the demand for a retraction. Priceless!

Forget about comedy writers being on strike. For entertainment, these Marina City cooks are just what the doctor ordered!

Anonymous said...

Even if Joe Zekas is right (and I don't think he is), this is a ridiculous restriction upon so-called 'commercial use'. How exactly is business or commercial purposes defined? The Condo Board is going to be the laughingstock of the world.

Anonymous said...

Also nice in this is that Joe Zekas's web site may have been affected by this. (Setting aside the utter preposterousness of the rule -- assume for a moment it held weight.) But suddenly it becomes reasonable if *he* can get around it because of an editorial allowance? (I got this from the post linked from his comment.)

So, the lesson isn't: "This would really be a crazy, intolerable burden on personal freedom." It's: "As long as I'm not affected, it's not a big deal."

Unknown said...

Joe: They most certainly do not have the legal right to limit commercial use of their image. See the US Copyright code [17 USC 120(a), to be precise]:

"Pictorial Representations Permitted. — The copyright in an architectural work that has been constructed does not include the right to prevent the making, distributing, or public display of pictures, paintings, photographs, or other pictorial representations of the work, if the building in which the work is embodied is located in or ordinarily visible from a public place."

Anonymous said...

The discussion in these comments is bizarre and pointless.

Just how ridiculous it is can be gleaned from Lynn Becker's assertion that he knows Marina City's "intentions."

Until we know what legal rights Marina City is asserting, against whom it's asserting them, and under what factual circumstances, it's not possible to have an intelligent discussion on the subject.

In the meantime, to characterize asserting one's rights as a "shakedown" is reprehensible.

Brendan Crain said...

You know, Joe, ignoring the refutation of your own point (with a direct quote from copyright law, no less) does not invalidate your point's invalidation.

Just a note.

Anonymous said...


I addressed the copyright issue on my site and here.

Let's assume, simply for the sake of argument, that Marina City has no copyright rights. That doesn't mean it has no rights.

We need more specifics before we can make any sense out of this issue.

Brendan Crain said...

Sort of, but not really, Joe. Commercial use would technically include skyline shots that included the Marina City towers. That means calendars, keychains, tourist maps, posters, movies, and TV shows would be required to fill out the Marina City condo association's paperwork and pay them for the use of the image down the Chicago River. That all qualifies as commercial use of the building's image as it is described in the policy document.

Also: if, even after reading through the rather absurdly detailed policy doc from the Marina City folks, you still think that their basis for claiming the right to restrict image of the building's use requires "more specifics," isn't that just a de facto suggestion that Marina City has not properly stated their mission, and thus the burden lies with them -- not Lynn Becker, and not anyone else -- to clear up the issue for everyone? I think that it's perfectly logical to assume, based on the information provided thus far, that the association is attempting to restrict use of the building's image taken from a public way. If that is untrue, it is the fault of the association for not making that clear. Considering the level of detail in the policy doc, I find that highly unlikely.

Editor said...

Joe Zekas, It doesn't matter if the photos are for commercial or non-commercial use, the Marina City people don't have the legal right to restrict publication of the photographs in any way whatsoever. Federal courts have already ruled on this several times, most famously in cases brought by (and lost by) the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland and the Chrysler Building in New York. Can you imagine being a tourist in New York and not being able to buy a picture of the Chrysler Building or the Empire State Building because the owners say you can't? The courts have already ruled on this. Hopefully the Marina City people will get their hands slapped in court the way their predecessors have. Did they even talk to a lawyer before drawing up such a ridiculous list of rules?

Anonymous said...

I really don’t understand what this foolishness is all about; are people really standing in line to publish photographs of two of the ugliest buildings in the world? They are tasteless, drab, cold looking concrete structures that are reminiscent of the flak towers erected in Germany during late 30s and early 40s or the utilitarian structures erected by the totalitarian regimes of eastern Europe during the Cold War.

Lynn Becker said...

Well, let's see. If you Google "Marina City" Chicago for images, you come up with almost 7,000 items. So I guess the answer to your question is, "Yes"

Anonymous said...

Did the Tribune pay to publish the photos used in this article about Marina City?