Copyright over photos of old art

The National Portrait Gallery is claiming copyright over photographs of works of art that’re hundreds of years old:

For several years, the National Portrait Gallery has claimed copyright over public domain images in their possession. Wikimedia has ignored these claims, occasionally laughing. (Bridgeman v. Corel. Sweat of the brow is not creation in US law; go away.) Our official stance in this time has been “sue and be damned.”

So the National Portrait Gallery has tried. Here’s their letter. A lollipop for every misconception or unlikely or impossible demand. This was sent after (so they claim) the WMF ignored their latest missive. The editor they sent the threat to is … an American.

Another absurdity of the copyright system that needs to be reformed.

This entry was posted in Britain, bullshit, censorship, copyright, digital rights, Wikipedia and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Copyright over photos of old art

  1. Tim Worstall says:

    A slightly different viewpoint:

    http://www.examiner.com/examiner/x-14795-Page-One-Examiner~y2009m7d12-Wikipedia-might-get-sued-by-the-National-Portrait-Gallery

    “We’ll need to get this sorted out at some point and the really basic questions are as follows. Should the US District Court for Southern New York (which decided Bridgeman v. Corel) be able to decide what the copyright law on photographs is in London, England? Many would think that that is a projection of the US legal code far beyond the natural and righteous boundaries of the jurisdiction. On the other hand, should the English legal system be able to determine what is placed on the pages of a US based and US hosted website? That also seems a little like Imperial over reach.”

    • Cabalamat says:

      There are really two issues here, jurisdiction of websites, and copyright law.

      A website should only have to obey the laws of where it is hosted. There are >200 legal jurisdictions throughout the world and it’s ridiculous and unworkable to expect anyone to understand all of them. If a website in country A does something that the laws of country B object to, then B has the remedy of blocking that website, if they wish to do so.

      Regarding copyright law. If a picture is out of copyright, then so shoudl reproductions be, because otherwise a gallery that owns the original can make a phto, ban other photos, and that way circumvent the time-limiting provisions of copyright law. Furthermore there’s a matter of principle: Britain’s artisitic heritage should be accessible to all Britons, at the marginal cost of making a new copy, i.e. zero, not locked up behind a paywall.

  2. Tim Worstall says:

    “If a picture is out of copyright, then so shoudl reproductions be, because otherwise a gallery that owns the original can make a phto, ban other photos,”

    No they can’t. The photographr can claim copyright over his photo….and can assign that the the museum for a consideration. But the museum has no rights at all over photos taken by people not in their employ or the rights to which they have not bought.

    The photo is the property of the photographer: what’s wrong with that?

  3. David Gerard says:

    That being precisely what the NPG in fact does. Most of their collection is in boxes, and they won’t let you photograph what isn’t anyway.

    This legal letter is designed to enforce complete enclosure.

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