BBC promises to put 200,000 publicly owned oil paintings online by 2012

The BBC has struck a deal to put all of Britain's publicly owned paintings online — presently, 80 percent of the 200,000 publicly owned paintings are not on display. This is ferociously awesome, at least on the face of it, though one can imagine all kinds of ways they could screw this up (crappy EULA, stupid Flash-based DRM, low-rez only, wasting license-fee money trying to keep non-British IP addresses out of the collection, etc). But, assuming they do this the way you'd expect something built by and for the Internet would work, this is the best news for free culture that I've heard since the BBC announced that they were going to put all their archives online for free remixing. Let's just hope that this promise is an easier one to keep — it's an embarrassment to see this once-great beacon of public service reinvent itself as a DRM platform (iPlayer) and a glorified video retailer for Americans (Worldwide).

The BBC is to put every one of the 200,000 oil paintings in public ownership in the UK on the internet as well as opening up the Arts Council's vast film archive online as part of a range of initiatives that it has pledged will give it a "deeper commitment to arts and music".

Mark Thompson, the BBC director general, unveiled the ambitious plans today at a London event showcasing the corporation's music, arts and culture output for 2009 and beyond.

The move may help the BBC get back on the front foot after almost a week of negative headlines over its refusal to broadcast the Gaza humanitarian aid appeal.

A partnership with the Public Catalogue Foundation charity will see all the UK's publicly owned oil paintings – 80% of which are not on public display – placed on the internet by 2012.

BBC to put nation's oil paintings online