UK National Portrait Gallery threatens Wikipedia over scans of its public domain art

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45 Responses to “UK National Portrait Gallery threatens Wikipedia over scans of its public domain art”

  1. zikzak says:

    @14, waderoush: The fact that they need money in order to continue doing good things like scanning public art doesn’t justify restricting access to that public art.

    They’re funded by the public – if they need more money, they should ask the public, rather than try to extract it through internet taxes.

  2. redesigned says:

    I don’t get it. They are funded by the public and hence are required by law to let people into the museum for free to view the artwork, yet they somehow think they can copyright, control, and charge people for the digital viewing of these same works? Isn’t that just a digital extension of what they are supposed to be doing for free? Making these images available to the public. What a shame they lost sight of and are undermining their intended purpose, allowing the public to view these images.

    If they need a revenue stream they should make high quality prints available for sale, or coffee table art books. That would be in line with getting these images in front of the public’s eyes, the main purpose that they server and get public funds for.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Is it actually clear that the photographs of the images are copyrighted, i.e. that a copyright claim would stand? My understanding (based on U.S. law) is that a work must have substantial creativity in order to be protected, and a simple reproduction of a public-domain work would not qualify. If I reproduce David Copperfield word-for-word, I can sell it for having produced an edition, but that doesn’t give me copyright over David Copperfield. That’s why publishers add forewords, etc. because that material IS copyrightable. How is photographing a public-domain image any different? If they’ve added no originality or anything transformative, does the museum have a valid copyright claim?

  4. Anonymous says:

    in the real world, when your revenue stream starts to dry up, you root hog, or die. Why doesn’t the NPG hire some staff to work on new ways of making money?

    In the world of private business, your enterprise is understood to have no inherent value, only the value assigned it by the market. Publicly-funded enterprises, on the other hand, are understood to have an inherent value that is not supported by the market. You don’t want your national gallery staff sorting out ways to make money “or die”, you want them running the gallery. Otherwise auction the portraits off, sell the grounds, and call it a day.

    And while I have an antipathy to this pursuit of copyright, I’m also sympathetic to a public institution with a dwindling budget feeling desperate about even 5% of its funding. I’m sure a follow-up post will delve into why the NPG feels so fiscally insecure- right?

  5. Anonymous says:

    “… and charge people for the digital viewing of these same work”

    Actually no. The digital viewing was free. What they want to control is the high resolution files that would allow someone to print up 20×16 gallery quality prints which are then flogged cheap on eBay, as the printer didn’t have to pay to create the digital files. These would directly compete with the ones that the NPG sells the revenue of which enables them to make more works available digitally.

  6. Fee says:

    The reason I took notice of this story and suggested it was that last year I tried to get an image for an exhibition which my ocal Quaker meeting was holding to celebrate its 350th. The NPG has a copy of a picture by the painter Benjamin West which shows his family – and John West, his father, went to school at the Quaker school in Uxbridge.

    The NPG wanted money for a good quality copy of the image, which I thought was of course reasonable, and money for the use of the photograph which I did not – not for an exhibition which was likely to be seen by fewer than 500 people.

    The point is, not only do they claim copyright on their photographs of the paintings, but they also claim copyright on any pictures you take too… when I suggested I could come to the Gallery and take my own picture, I was told the same charges would apply.

    I think pictures which beong to the nation and are out of copyright should be in the pubic domain… I think there should be away of funding that without restricting the public access to the out-of-copyright material.

    The Gallery itself argued that they wanted to raise the quality of the prints and photographs of their images which are used – the best way of doing that would be to release the high-res images as being in the public domain, and find other ways of raising money.

    Sometimes I feel that public bodies and charities lose sight of their purpose in favour of making money at every turn. They say that the aim of the National Portrait Gallery, London is ‘to promote through the medium of portraits the appreciation and understanding of the men and women who have made and are making British history and culture, and … to promote the appreciation and understanding of portraiture in all media’. How better to do this than through Wikipedia?

  7. PalookaJoe says:

    To my biased and untrained eye, it takes some serious mental gymnastics and a huge dollop of chutzpah to claim ownership over a photograph of someone else’s artwork, especially when the photographs make no substantial change to the original artwork. It’s like scanning a book and claiming that you now hold a copyright to the photocopy.

    From the strictly legal angle it sounds like the NPG may have grounds to restrict access to these works. But from a common-sense (and by “common” I mean “common among people who think exactly like me”) moral standpoint it makes me very uncomfortable.

  8. dros says:

    these photos have cost a hell of a lot of money to produce. the event of their photography, despite any amount of care provided, causes the object to deteriorate. this ‘cost’ should also be considered, alongside any renumeration.

    the high res images’ main function would be for use in academic presentations and publications. if the pictures were freely available from a third party, then collection managers would not see a ‘return’ in the next column, when assessing the efficacy of their department. now, in a public museum, a ‘return’ does not necessarily have to be fiscal – it can be a publication; the number of participants in a workshop; number of respondents to a questionnaire; participants in volunteer training; positive/negative feedback; personal or detailed collections enquiries; submissions of objects or memories to the collection. by devolving control of the object and its likeness, all this feedback and engagement is something museums miss – despite their best efforts. we *want* to know how you feel about these objects, what they mean to you and so on. when information is scattered and unattributed, we lose our ability to commit it to historical record, and do not have the resources to go chasing after it.

    the thing is, the only ‘return’ that comes from releasing high-res images of your own collection, is that other people will use it to make money. why not have a piece of that cake? there is very little funding available for public museums at the moment. an image in an useable, ‘will-do’ format (i.e. not for academic publication), of course, is fair game, and they should be available on line for all to use, see and explore. this is what most members of the public ask for when making a request for an image anyway.

    what does a high-res image provide for the general user, that a med-res image does not? you only really need the kind of detail provided by specialist photography if you are making copies of the image for use elsewhere.

    also – you forget that the curator is legally bound to look after the object and its likeness, through thick and thin. it a complicated, and often emotive subject, but is all part of being a cultural advocate.

  9. dros says:

    as an aside, many museums don’t even own the copyright to likenesses of their own collections! -that honour usually goes to large photo agencies, or descendants of the artists. so perhaps the National Gallery doesn’t even have the right to take photos of these paintings themselves, without paying a hefty fee to a picture library!

  10. stumo says:

    Personally, I disagree – I think they’re well within their rights to try to get some money back from the cost of scanning/photographing. The images were available from NPG pages, that could be linked to. Now they aren’t precisely because of this – meaning that other stuff they scan won’t be available.

    The other issue here is that Wikipedia seems to be ignoring local laws, believing that because USA copyright law differs on this issue, all’s fine. That leaves a rather bad taste in the mouth.

  11. Simon Bradshaw says:

    I’ve been discussing this with other ORG legal volunteers, and our conclusion, as I’ve summarised on my law blog, is that whilst the NPG’s legal arguments aren’t without foundation they’re a whole lot shakier than their letter to Mr Coetzee would make out.

  12. Anonymous says:

    I looked into this a few years ago but not in relation to UK law. Is there enough originality in a photograph of an artwork to claim any form of copyright? I think they are pushing it.

  13. CrosbieFitch says:

    A revenue stream from the digitisation of oil paintings that doesn’t involve suspending the public’s liberty – to freely share and build upon published works of art? And that doesn’t simply constitute taxation?

    Tricky. It may take some time finding such a revenue mechanism…

    The Digital Art Auction is a means of determining the equivalent retail price of a digitally representable work of art if each bidder paid the same price (not exceeding their valuation).

    Thus, if 3,300 images cost £1,000,000 to digitise then each image need only fetch £300 at auction to break even. £300 could be raised by 30 people bidding at least £10, 300 bidding at least £1, or 3,000 at 10p, etc.

    Therefore, there are indeed ways of enabling the public to pay for works to be published that don’t involve suspending their liberty to share and build upon their cultural heritage (and that don’t involve dubious taxation).

    As far as I am aware, the implementation of the Digital Art Auction closest to completion is currently: https://www.liberateip.com

    NB There are many implementations of the Street Performer Protocol, but this is simply a means of collecting donations of varying amounts with a refund in the event the target fund isn’t reached. See http://fundable.com.

  14. orangebag says:

    “It is hard to see a plausible argument that excluding public domain content from a free, non-profit encyclopaedia serves any public interest whatsoever,” he wrote

    1stly you should make clear who “he” is. (Deputy Director Wikimedia Foundation)

    2ndly the quote does not address the possible legal issues: are the photos themselves under copyright? and did the US person who circumvented the protection to obtain the complete hi res images break UK law in obtaining them? (despite being in the US). But you did address the legal issue in your comments before the quote from BBC article.

    If you believe the public wants to subsidize the creation of commercial art-books, then get out of the art-gallery business, start a publisher

    Why can’t they do both?

    I am not really surprised that the NPG reacted as they did. They probably have a case under UK law, and that placing high res copies on wiki will eat into their income.

    I don’t know if you have already done so, but you could mention that the NPG has already offered to make low res copies available to wikipedia.

    An aside: if you allow free use of cameras, how do you stop people accidentally setting off their flash? My guess would be that 5-10% of people won’t turn them off properly. (I am of course assuming that flashes have been shown to speed up damage to paintings or other art)

  15. Anonymous says:

    The NPG should block Googlebot from its images. By failing to do so, they give an implied licence to Google to display them.

  16. Takuan says:

    in the real world, when your revenue stream starts to dry up, you root hog, or die. Why doesn’t the NPG hire some staff to work on new ways of making money?

  17. Simon Bradshaw says:

    Takuan @4: I suspect that’s what the NPG did a few years ago when the Government told them that major museums and galleries were no longer to charge for admission, but didn’t up their funding to compensate.

    Another group I’m involved with used to hold a major book award ceremony in the Science Museum. When admission charges were abolished on government order, our previously free event suddenly was going to cost us £6,000. The UK’s major museums are now all doing everything they can to raise extra revenue, but as Cory has noted it seems doubtful that the NPG is actually getting that much money from selling prints.

  18. Takuan says:

    sell embarrassing portraits of elected ticks then. I’ll bet folks like Steve Bell would donate their work.

  19. Takuan says:

    say, who were the Spitting Image artists?

  20. Anonymous says:

    the BBC jealously guards its additional DVD income and shies away from any kind of public archive that might undermine it, saying that the five percent of its budget derived from commercial operations is so important that the material funded with the other 95 percent of its income — which comes directly from the public — should be locked up.

    Actually it’s more like 75% of the BBC’s income that comes from licence fees…

  21. Simeon says:

    I had some comment to make here but #2 Has thrown me. I’ve only ever seen the name Simon Bradshaw as a misspelling of my own name – Simeon Bradshaw. Usually it’s annoying as invariably it means someone has taken it upon themselves to ‘correct’ my name, as if I can’t fill a form or spell my own name.

    I had an odd lurching feeling, like discovering an account had been hacked. Luckily, on reading Simon’s posts it’s turns out he’s genuine, erudite and funny. Suddenly I wouldn’t mind being mixed up for the guy. I do sometimes wish I’d been named Bob though.

    Can’t wiki just use the lo-res and NPG still profit from publishing? As Orangebag notes this has been suggested by the NPG.

    Increasingly here, when you look for the facts behind the headline, I’m finding it’s a different story. More rigour please!

  22. Anonymous says:

    By the way, Canada still does not have a national portrait gallery of any sort. We do have a whole bunch of portraits locked away in a vault at the National Library, but no gallery to see them at, online or otherwise. The Brits actually have it really good.

  23. Simon Bradshaw says:

    Peter Fluck and Roger Law. You’d probably want material from the likes of Martin Rowson and Gerald Scarfe as well though (and Scarfe is shown as having some 17 pictures in the NPG’s collection already).

  24. Beanolini says:

    An aside: if you allow free use of cameras, how do you stop people accidentally setting off their flash?

    The Cluny Museum in Paris achieves this by employing assistants to multilingually berate anyone who does use a flash. After witnessing one woman getting a prolonged tongue-lashing, I was very careful to ensure my flash was off.

  25. Anonymous says:

    To those saying “of course the museum has the copyright to the photos of their collection,” let me try and explain the American view, as exemplified in Corel v. Bridgemen. Copyright is available to new, creative works. Copyright is available to derivative works, only to the new elements of those works. The amount of work “sweat of the brow,” is immaterial, rather it is the amount of creativity that matters. Although these sorts of archival photographs require alot of work, (eg. The photographer is only working with 3 pigments, while the artist was working with many, so colo(u)r matching can be difficult) they’re not CREATIVE and NOVEL.

  26. Takuan says:

    I’d set up a slave flash relay hooked up to one of those crowd microwave torture devices.

  27. Anonymous says:

    I’m afraid I’m going to have to employ a solicitor to draw up a suit against the National Portrait Gallery for uttering a false claim of ownership, as I, Lazlo Pink, am the true author and copyright owner of the “No Photography” sign. Barstards! Meanwhile, I think it is both brave and wise for the NPG to make war on a vast, free, global advertising medium like the hated Wikipedia. Fie, fie I say.

    Thank the Old Ones that nobody from the gallery stooped to making an accommodation like providing Wiki with lovely high resolution scans of the portraiture with a watermark band along the bottom promoting the museum. Imagine the fallout from that, ruin! Why, people would not only see pictures on their screens but they would know where they could find the actual graphical artifacts.

  28. EdWatkins says:

    …the BBC jealously guards its additional DVD income and shies away from any kind of public archive that might undermine it.

    I believe you’re wrong about this. I know for a fact that the BBC are currently internally beta testing a version of the iplayer which has access to the entire digitized BBC archive. Pending the testing, it is slated for public release sometime next year.

  29. Deidzoeb says:

    Am I right in thinking the national gallery is like a public museum? On the one hand, I understand they need income to meet their costs. On the other hand, this seems fundamentally opposed to the mission of any public museum, displaying their artifacts for the public.

  30. Anonymous says:

    “Taking these photographs is a very skilled process, involves a number of people/equipment/lighting (actually photographing paintings this well is one of the hardest things to photograph), and can only be done when the gallery is closed (adding to expense).”

    The problem with this line of reasoning is that these images are in all likelihood already photographed and archived on slides or as digital files (and thus quite easily and inexpensively converted if necessary and published to the web–even if “zoomified,” since that’s a free application). Any responsible curator would have high quality images of the originals for insurance purposes, and even if that weren’t the case many of these will also have been archived as high quality copies for printed material already.

    In fact, while many of the offending Wikimedia images are beautiful copies of the originals, others are look like they’re just scans from prints — you can see the dots:

    e.g.:

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/63/Anne_Boleyn.png

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f3/Anne_of_Cleves.png

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/6d/Anne_of_Denmark_in_mourning.jpg

  31. teufelsdroch says:

    @38 oh yeah, that IS the issue here. Once the hi-res copies go up on wikipedia, they get distributed to poster makers.

    Once you know that the NPG is willing to give out lo-res versions, this entire story turns to pudding.

    As others have noted, photographs aren’t allowed in museums in order to protect the physical paintings, not the copyright.

    And, is no one else bothered by the lack of distinction between the BRITISH public paying for the museum and the WORLD public consuming the copies?

    Should the BBC make its programming free to its citizens? I dunno…NPR and CSPAN do, as well as Nova, Frontline and such.

  32. Anonymous says:

    As I tried to point out on the Wikipedia blog — but was rudely told I was part of some suspected spam network instead — the Bundesarchiv donations were limited to 800 pixels a side, which is much lower resolution than available from them. I believe that the NPG has offered to freely share medium resolution images.

    You also seem to have missed entirely the allegation that the Wikipedia editor who uploaded the images circumvented the systems the NPG had in place to prohibit downloading of the high-res images. Kinda puts things in a slightly different light, doesn’t it?

  33. thequickbrownfox says:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Academy

    “The Royal Academy of Arts was founded through a personal act of King George III on 10th December 1768 with a mission to promote the arts of design through education and exhibition.”

    …and the commercial aspect was added later, well, when we learned we could leverage aggregate demand because dudes, We Got Lawyers!

  34. waderoush says:

    “At the end of the day, you either buy this argument or you don’t.” I’m not sure it’s that simple. I do buy the NPG’s argument that licensing income from digitization projects funds further digitization. It’s not like cultural institutions have a lot of extra money to throw at technology these days. That’s why I think it’s hasty and ultimately counterproductive for groups like the Wikimedia Foundation to simply appropriate digital materials, without bothering to figure out an arrangement that might help the institution that created the materials to keep making more. Yes, the images should be in the public domain, but this isn’t a simple copyright issue, it’s also a sustainability issue. For my full argument on this see http://www.xconomy.com/national/2009/07/17/art-isnt-free-the-tragedy-of-the-wikimedia-commons

  35. WalterBillington says:

    Scan them, re-render them, sell them. That would sustain the galleries.

    The galleries are to serve the public interest. It’s a simple and basic observation that web imagery of the works is an extension of people visiting the gallery. They should be proud to be able to open this world up to the populace at large – imagine thugs in Stockport (for that’s where they be) softening as they gaze at the lovely Queen Elizabeth I.

    The art world. It’s really all about money. And that really only accrues to the few. Doesn’t the web provide every opportunity for the population to move away from that?

  36. Anonymous says:

    And this goes to underscore the problems related to art in a market-driven society. If the only things of value are things you can sell, then art only has value as a marketable object. The intrinsic value of all art as a medium of idea-exchange and fermentation is lost.
    Its time society grows up and makes a place for ideas away from the market.

  37. Anonymous says:

    Coming a bit late to this debate but here is my take.

    I edit a newsletter dedicated to the life and work of a minor, well known Victorian painter. We are few in number and not for profit. The artist’s house is at risk from development and we produced a small booklet, sold at cost to raise awareness of this. We wanted to use, in our booklet, a copy of a drawing of the artist which is in a well known state funded museum in London. We were asked to pay a hefty fee to use the image even though we are a very small not for profit group. We had to decline.

    One a different tack a few years back I wrote a small book for a publisher specialising in pocket money, pocket sized, books on specialist subjects. I wanted to use a drawing by a particular 18c artist and found out there was a copy in a museum in the north of England – not on display (part of a collection donated to the museum by a 19th century manufacturer).

    I had to supply my own images so I phoned the museum to ask how much they would charge me to use it. They quoted an astronomical figure. I pointed out the book would never sell more than 2000 copies, over an extended period and the cover price was 5 dollars so the sum they were asking exceeded the potential total profit. They basically told me to take it or leave it. I left it.

    There is some truth in the allegations that museums, under financial pressure, have lost sight of their original objectives, ie to make their contents available to the public.

    A lot of the money raised by museums from various sources seems to be spent at present on technology to digitise their contents. But this is also being used to restrict as much as open up access to their collections. To see the paintings as well as possible you should not have to depend on making a visit.

    The UK museum sector regards digital images as a cash cow to be milked and has ring fenced “out of copyright images” as a potential source of income.

    You can see their thinking, if they have obtained funding to digitise their collections, why not show the government they are commercially minded by clawing back some of the cost to subsidise their running costs.

    But if an image is out of copyright and therefore in the public domain, why should my access to it be restricted to allow the museum to optimise their income.

    I think they are on very dodgy ground claiming that scanning in high quality images is a major skill which entitles them to claim the copyright in these images. It may be an expensive process but the output images are not original work.

    Also Zoomify is not security protection software and is not sold as such. More fool the NPG is they assumed it was.

    And I certainly don’t buy the argument that making high res images available is allowing every Tom Dick or Harry to sell these on the Internet. If you wanted to print a high res image that was available digitally you could do so at home given the right printer. No need to buy from some cowboy on the internet. Plus if you think the image from the cowboy will be dodgy you can always pay a bit more and buy an original from the museum.

    I also have had dealings with picture library images both as a photographer and as a buyer. When you submit a image to a commercial photo library it has to be very high res, suitable for printing out the image in very fine detail at A3 size, this is what media picture buyers want.

    One solution to the Wiki issue would be for the NPG to make available high res images which could be printed out high res if kept small but not if printed out large. They could of course also be water marked. Commercial media buyers will always want the big A3 potential digital image and they could continue to buy these from the museum itself.

  38. Anonymous says:

    ” supplements its income by licensing photos of its paintings to books and for the web. They are so protective of this small bit of income that they even prohibit photographs of their “no photography” signs (they argue that these signs are copyrighted”

    you plainly misunderstand how museums work – i was wondering when you well-intended but frankly simplistic copyright-evil-dousing-stick was going to point that way. in short: museums have no money. if we are to conserve the actual objects for future use, we have to have able-handed conservators and curators NOW. ‘selling food in the cafe’ is one thing that brings in auxilliary income but very often, too many franchises can cause harm to the atmosphere of a museum, and cause damage to the collections (ICE CREAM i’m looking at you!). it also doesn’t provide the cash for long-term posts, for highly skilled workers, with constant training (techniques advance very quickly).

    it takes Months to get objects like the ones in the NPG ready for photography, and it is a very heavy cost to produce images of that quality without damaging the object. a cost that managers and consultants brought in to squeeze the juice out of our underfunded museums do not see ‘returning’ in the other column. I imagine the NPG’s strategy is not to everyone’s taste, but what you can do to raise money in museums nowadays is very narrow as, um, well, people have a right to expect to see their national collection for free (and rightly so).

    High res images are most likely used by those in higher education, for presentation and publication purposes. sure, it’s not a lot of money, but a couple of orders and you’ve got enough to run a free workshop for families over a weekend. this money is not spent on chandeliers ;)

    museums are subject to the same copyright restrictions as any other public body: for example, when putting together an exhibition of music, all rights to performance, publication, album artwork etc are accounted and paid for, even if you’re not-for-profit and essentially a mediator of information. When it comes to dishing it out for free, people frequently over-estimate an institution’s resources.

    sometimes museums don’t even own the copyright to the images they have in their own collection, and have to pay a descendant of the artist everytime they want to make a likeness of the artwork available eg on a postcard, teatowel, whatever…

    one of the main reasons i know some objects cannot be photographed in situ is for conservation (as you mentioned flash above), then, if it is a built up area, visitor flow (something which cannot be underestimated).

    lastly, and this is more relevant to the ‘high res’ argument, counterfeiters. as you have illustrated in your post, there are far more people out there who know nothing of the museological process, or the academic discipline which underpins it, than people who do. this means that we have a duty of care when it comes to unscrupulous makers, who take advantage of people by selling them hugely expensive knockoffs under false pretences. it is a difficult dilemma – be open and contribute indirectly to the miseducation of many, or restrict access to accredited institutions and researchers, in the hope that massive misinterpretation can be avoided?

    the job has always been to maintain the integrity of the objects, as they are legally entrusted to the curator. museums must be allowed to flourish through initiatives like this and lessons learned. as their funding becomes more dependent on politically-charged agendas, the more boxes each initiative has to tick.

    the chances are, if there’s no money at the end of it (ie, there’s an un-ticked box), fewer people will be trained in digitisation as a consequence, fewer large-scale projects like these will even get off the ground -and there are MANY of these, believe me.

  39. octopussoup says:

    I think they could have worked something out in a better way instead of starting with sueing. I’m not sure what the laws are over painting of these pictures. I’d think while they own the object they wouldn’t own photographs of the paintings. If the images are just stolen from the museum website that again is another issue.

    Let some folks go in to the museum sneak some pics and upload those. I do have a problem with saying that something that is more that 100 years old image is not in the public realm. There are numerous pictures of the Mona Lisa on the internet does that stop people from buying copies of it or visiting the museum?

  40. iCowboy says:

    I’m sure Cory didn’t deliberately leave out some details of this story, but there is another take on it…

    …firstly. The NPG had offered Wikipedia lower resolution images suitable for Web browsers. These would have been of a similar quality offered by other galleries. The ones currently being used by Wikipedia are of exceptional quality.

    …secondly. How did this guy get hold of the 3000 images at such a high resolution. Normally you have to use the ‘zoomify’ gadget to see them like this on the NPG site. Did he really do that manually, or did he grab the images using software? In which case he broke the terms and conditions of the use of the NPG site.

    …thirdly. Wikipedia’s own rules say that they will not incorporate material from a country where it is still under copyright. The UK law is clear on this – the photographs are under copyright (whether you agree with this or not). So why is Wikipedia breaking its own rules?

    …and finally. Why does Wikipedia need to host the images at all? There’s this thing called the World Wide Web which lets you link to stuff. Perhaps they can look it up on Wikipedia???

  41. Anonymous says:

    Taking these photographs is a very skilled process, involves a number of people/equipment/lighting (actually photographing paintings this well is one of the hardest things to photograph), and can only be done when the gallery is closed (adding to expense).

    The NPG were more than willing to share low res – web suitable / optimized images (their database even helps you to do this), but the high res ones will damage revenue – because their will be people who misuse them after downloading from WP.

    Coetzee copied 3,300 high-resolution images from the NPG’s online database, some of them [high resolution]. It is common practice for museums to put some digital image in low resolution on the web. High resolution images are normally kept under much tighter control, not accessible to the public, but to employees and e.g. researchers.

    So the question is: did Coetzee have permission? How did he get access to them? Coetzee studies computer sciences. Has he been hacking, or writing a tool to harvest images from sites, unbeknownst to the owners?

    Even if NPG has been negligent, they still are the proprietors of the digital images. So Coetzee and WikiMedia may argue, but they should settle for the low-res images that NPG does want to share.

  42. arkizzle / Moderator says:

    I believe you’re wrong about this.

    Ed, what you are describing is a significant change in policy. So Cory’s statement was right, up until this change, no?

  43. Robert says:

    I don’t get it. Jimmy Wales is supposed to be an Objectivist. Doesn’t that mean that man has the right to impose whatever terms he wants on his work? And doesn’t that mean that the Portrait Gallery has the right to restrict Wikipedia from using images that the Portrait Gallery took?

  44. Darren Garrison says:

    #17 iCowboy “Normally you have to use the ‘zoomify’ gadget to see them like this on the NPG site. Did he really do that manually, or did he grab the images using software?”

    If that software exists, I’d love to have it. A while back I found some scans of old Japanese scrolls on a web site, viewable only through one of those shitty Zoomify windows. What I had to do to capture them in full resolution was manually scroll across each image, do a printscreen with each section of image (making sure there was overlap between captures), crop those down and then restitch hundreds of images together again in software. Photoshop’s panorama applet helped, but there was still lots of hand work to do with each scroll. Took multiple hours for each one. (But the results were worth it– http://webpages.charter.net/garrison6328/scroll/scrolls.html)

  45. arkizzle / Moderator says:

    I’d think while they own the object they wouldn’t own photographs of the paintings.

    The point is, they do own the copyright of the photographs-of-the-paintings. If you can get permission from them, you can make your own photographs (to which, you will own the rights), but the ones already made, are indeed the property of NPG. Under UK law there is a right to the photograph itself, seperate from the painting.

    If the images are just stolen from the museum website that again is another issue.

    Care to explain the difference? Does it really matter what use the photographs were being put to?

    Let some folks go in to the museum sneak some pics and upload those.

    Nice; out-of-focus and flash burnt. The reason the images NPG took are so nice (and fought over) is that it took thousands of pounds worth of lighting, time and photographers to make them perfect.

    I do have a problem with saying that something that is more that 100 years old image is not in the public realm. There are numerous pictures of the Mona Lisa on the internet does that stop people from buying copies of it or visiting the museum?

    They are not saying that the paintings aren’t in the public domain, only the photos they have spent (our) money on. Also, someone owns the copyright to those photos of the Mona Lisa. Just because the Mona Lisa is in the public domain, doesn’t mean I can go to a gift shop, scan the postcards, print and sell them again.
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    I personally agree (to a point), that taking the time and money (in a more general sense than this case in particular, which involves public money etc) should give one some sort of right over the photograph itself.

    As a random example, an old cathedral (including sculptures and frescos) is in the public domain, but if I photograph it, I own the copyright to the photo*. There is, of course, wriggle-room in this example, as there has to be some degree of artistic interpretation when photographing 3d environments (angle, exposure, etc), as opposed to a flat-on, 2d image like a painting which is essentially just a scanned replica (regardless of the chosen lighting set-up), unless specifically ‘interpreted’ in some way.

    But I also believe that there should be some kind of Compulsory License (compulsorily given, not compulsorily required) to shoot your own version, if a painting is in the public domain.

    *Not withstanding this nonsense..

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