[Wikipedia-l] Obnoxious art galleries...

Ray Saintonge saintonge at telus.net
Wed Aug 4 18:25:34 UTC 2004

Robert Graham Merkel wrote:

>wikipedia-l-request at Wikimedia.org wrote:
>>From: "Jimmy (Jimbo) Wales" <jwales at wikia.com>
>>Subject: [Wikipedia-l] [bhorrocks at npg.org.uk: National Portrait
>>	Gallery	images on Wikipedia website]
>>It would please me greatly to be able to respond that their claims are
>>preposterous.  Shall we research this carefully?
>I don't know about UK law, but the National Gallery of Victoria 
>in Australia (with the shared legal tradition I believe the copyright
>laws are similar) seems to believe that they own the rights to any 
>photographs of the artworks they own, even if the artworks themselves 
>are in the public domain.  You will note the copyright notice on 
>this Australian website:
>This is despite the fact that McCubbin died in 1917.
>I have been meaning to get around to making further enquiries into this
>in the Australian context, but haven't got around to it.  Given this
>enquiry, it just got moved up my priority list.
I would be curious to know what policy these galleries apply with regard 
to photography by individual visitors to the gallery.

I think too that there is a question of burden of proof involved.  Even 
if their principle legal premise is correct they need to prove that our 
picture was taken from their website, rather than us needing to prove 
that it was from somewhere else.  Also if their premise is correct that 
there is a copyright in these reproduction, an individual who has taken 
his own photograph of a picture would not lose his own copyright on the 
basis that he had violated a no-photography rule.  

Another observation that I would make is that any copyrights to these 
reproductions must be determined separately.  Without that, how can we 
know the copyright date of a specific photograph?  Without the copyright 
date, how can we know when the copyright expires?  What is meant by 
publishing?  If the same photograph was used to produce a postcard in 
1930 the copyright on that would certainly have expired.  Whose courts 
have jurisdiction?

Naturally, taking a stand on this requires more research than these off 
the cuff remarks.  Still I think that it is inevitable that as the 
putative copyright holders see their revenue streams threatened they 
will take action to protect those streams.  Sooner or later there will 
be a legal confrontation; what we need to know is which actions are 
worth defending.


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