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Photography News Out of Eastern Europe

belarus… where photography has no value!!!

A Belarusian court expert said Anton Motolko's pictures of the Northern Lights near Minsk did not have "any signs of creative freshness, originality, uniqueness, or exceptionality."

On March 17, 2015, Anton Motolko drove 60 kilometers north of his home in Minsk to photograph the Northern Lights, a rarity in Belarus. After a spectacular and successful night working, he published the images on his social media accounts and they quickly went viral.

The next evening, Belteleradiocompany, a state-run television network in Belarus, ran a feature on Motolko’s work that compared the hues in his photos to the red and green Belarusian flag. The television channel did not pay or credit Motolko, and had not asked permission to use the pictures.

Key to the television network’s case was testimony from an expert who said that Motolko’s photographs did not have “any signs of creative freshness, originality, uniqueness, or exceptionality.”


Okay so a rundown of the story…

  1. A Belorussian photographer takes neato picture
  2. Belorussian TV station uses neato picture because it is neato
  3. Belorussian TV station refuses to compensate photographer
  4. Court declares Belorussian TV station need not compensate photographer because his photography isn’t wonderful enough to be copyright protected

It’s like those people who try to pay artists with “exposure”!


Frankly, it’s amazing that a court could twist itself around to such an extent that it declares a photograph like Moltoko’s as having no “creative freshness” or “exceptionality“.

For one thing, what the hell is creative freshness? How the hell do you measure the freshness of creativity? As a photographer, when have you ever looked into your viewfinder to see an expiration date???

For another, the thought that a piece of art must be ‘exceptional’ to be granted a copyright is absurd. How could you ever possibly measure the exceptionalism of a piece of art? There is no Universal Art Grading System !!! that will magically get you a letter grade for every single piece of art ever made…

The value of art is based on the feelings of each and every individual. It’s a personal thing… I do not like the same art as you and what I may find exceptional you may very well find boring. Does that make the art you like worthless or the art I find exceptional unexceptional? Absolutely not. Nobody’s feelings or opinions on art are so valuable, so wonderful, that they should dictate everybody else’s engagement with that art or its general value to society. Nobody is that important.

*sigh* That a photograph like Moltoko’s is deemed unworthy of a copyright is just so absurd.

I guess photographers beware of the beast that is Belarus.

Background – Belarus Facts

After seven decades as a constituent republic of the USSR, Belarus attained its independence in 1991. It has retained closer political and economic ties to Russia than have any of the other former Soviet republics. Belarus and Russia signed a treaty on a two-state union on 8 December 1999 envisioning greater political and economic integration. Although Belarus agreed to a framework to carry out the accord, serious implementation has yet to take place. Since his election in July 1994 as the country’s first and only directly elected president, Aleksandr LUKASHENKO has steadily consolidated his power through authoritarian means and a centralized economic system. Government restrictions on political and civil freedoms, freedom of speech and the press, peaceful assembly, and religion have remained in place. The situation was somewhat aggravated after security services cracked down on mass protests challenging election results in the capital, Minsk, following the 2010 presidential election, but little protest occurred after the 2015 election.


Belarus has a population of around 9,000,000 who mainly speak Russian ( ~ 70%).

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