Thanks to MN, we have this article by Tom Cardy in tonight’s Evening Post from Wellington.

“It’s a question that would stump even Gandalf. Can people take photographs of film sets for The Lord Of The Rings without permission? The hush-hush Lord of the Rings project last week erected a sign outside the entrance to its film set in Peterkin St, Taita, warning people against taking photographs or video-tape footage. Despite being fenced off, much of the set can be clearly seen from the street. The sign comes more than a year after several newspapers, including The Evening Post, began publishing photographs of sets. Many Lord Of The Rings fans have also taken photographs and video footage which they display on Internet websites. The signs says people can’t take photographs or video footage as “the set and costumes-props are valuable copyright works”. It also warns that the film company Three Foot Six, which is making The Lord Of The Rings, could expose any film and erase any video footage. John Terry of patent and trade mark attorneys Baldwin Shelston Waters in Wellington said the sign is correct if someone set foot on the property. But if the photographs or videotape was taken while a person stayed on a public space the sign was only partly correct. Under the Copyright Act, the public would infringe copyright if photographs or video footage was taken of costumes, props and “mobile structures”. However, most sets were fixed structures so were defined as buildings, Mr Terry said. The public is allowed to take photographs or video footage of buildings without infringing copyright, so long as it’s taken from a public space.

Mr Terry said even if the photographs or video footage were taken of costumes or props, no one had to hand over film or videotape. “They can’t just walk up and take your camera away from you. That’s basically theft. What they would have to do in that situation is bring a [legal] action against you for copyright infringement and get a court order that you deliver up your camera.”

Andrea Jane and Malcolm Webb of law firm Bell Gully said photographs or video footage that were unclear, or taken from a long distance, were not likely to infringe copyright. Also, while an elaborate set or costume may be protected by copyright, a shed or basic garment probably wouldn’t be, they said.

But what about media organisations? Dan Parker and Hannah Dew at law firm Phillips Fox in Wellington said in their view The Evening Post was entitled to take photographs of the set from outside the barrier fence. The costumes, props and set were likely to be protected by copyright, they said. However, The Post could publish photographs because it was reporting The Lord Of The Rings sets as a current event.”

Right. I think secretly everyone knew that.