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International Digital Rights

Another interesting conflict in the world of copyright and digital media.

The National Portrait Gallery [Great Britain] is threatening legal action after 3,300 images from its website were uploaded to online encyclopaedia Wikipedia.

A contributor to the popular site, Derrick Coetzee, breached English copyright laws by posting images from the gallery’s collection, the NPG said.

But photographs of works of art are not protected by copyright in the US, where Mr Coetzee and Wikipedia are based.

Of course these issues go beyond a simple my-rights, your-rights squabble.

The situation illustrates once again that the web freely crosses national borders (at least most of them) while intellectual property laws don’t.

So, should a publicly-funded museum in the UK have the right to prevent a US-based non-profit web site (fast becoming an international public utility) from using images of works that are already posted on the museum’s web site and carry no copyright restrictions outside of the country?

I doubt a definitive answer will be crafted anytime soon.

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2 Comments

  1. One possible outcome of all of this could be that the NPG and similar organisations will in future block access to hi-res images outside the UK (or which country the organisation is in) to avoid exactly this issue – to no one’s benefit.

  2. It seems to me that the better course of action for the museum would be to apply copyright info on their pics but allow non-profit websites that are essentially promoting the museum for free limited rights to use the images.
    I as a photographer know that if I post it on the web it will be snagged and used by someone. So images I want to keep carefully for large prints, royalties, etc I do not allow on the web.

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