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Old 07-17-2009, 02:20 PM   #1
ahi
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Wikipedia Painting Row (Public Domain Scan Issue)

Something interesting for those of us with an interest in public domain / copyright issues:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/8156268.stm

Quote:
The battle over Wikipedia's use of images from a British art gallery's website has intensified.

...

The NPG is threatening legal action after 3,300 images from its website were uploaded to Wikipedia.

...

But the gallery insists that its case has been misrepresented, and has now released a statement denying many of the charges made by Wikipedia.

It denies claims that it has been "locking up and limiting access to educational materials", saying that it has been a pioneer in making its material available.

It has worked for the last five years toward the target of getting half of its collection online by 2009. "We will be able to achieve this," said the gallery's statement,"as a result of self-generated income."

The gallery says that while it only makes a limited revenue from web licensing, it earns far more from the reproduction of its images in books and magazines - £339,000 in the last year.

...

The gallery has claimed that David Coetzee's actions have breached English copyright laws, which protect copies of original works even when they themselves are out of copyright.

The National Portrait Gallery now says it only sent a legal letter to David Coetzee after the Wikimedia Foundation failed to respond to requests to discuss the issue. But it says contact has now been made and remains hopeful that a dialogue will be possible.

...

The British Association of Picture Libraries and Agencies has backed the National Portrait Gallery's stance.

"If owners of out of copyright material are not going to have the derivative works they have created protected, which will result in anyone being able to use then for free, they will cease to invest in the digitisation of works, and everyone will be the poorer," it wrote in an email to its members.

But the Wikipedia volunteer David Gerard accuses the gallery of bureaucratic empire building.

"They honestly think the paintings belong to them rather than to us," he wrote.
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Old 07-17-2009, 02:42 PM   #2
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I've seen people getting in an uproar over all over the place for a few days now. My question is this: How is this really any different than a PD book being published by Penguin or Random House? The material contained in the book is PD, but that particular manifestation of it is copyrighted (the presentation and specific formatting).

Images are the same way. It's not like they magically made themselves appear in a photograph (or jpg). A photographer had to spend some time ensuring the conditions were just right to get a good picture of the work (which isn't exactly simple because classic artwork can be very reactive to light--hence the 'no flash photography' rules in most museums). In that instance, like the book, the material contained within the image is PD, but the image itself is copyrighted.
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Old 07-17-2009, 02:59 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Abecedary View Post
I've seen people getting in an uproar over all over the place for a few days now. My question is this: How is this really any different than a PD book being published by Penguin or Random House? The material contained in the book is PD, but that particular manifestation of it is copyrighted (the presentation and specific formatting).

Images are the same way. It's not like they magically made themselves appear in a photograph (or jpg). A photographer had to spend some time ensuring the conditions were just right to get a good picture of the work (which isn't exactly simple because classic artwork can be very reactive to light--hence the 'no flash photography' rules in most museums). In that instance, like the book, the material contained within the image is PD, but the image itself is copyrighted.
Wikipedia's answer is:

Quote:
Both the NPG and Wikimedia agree that the paintings depicted in these images are in the public domain – many of these portraits are hundreds of years old, all long out of copyright. However, the NPG claims that it holds a copyright to the reproduction of these images (while also controlling access to the physical objects). In other words, the NPG believes that the slavish reproduction of a public domain painting without any added originality conveys a new full copyright to the digital copy, creating the opportunity to monetize this digital copy for many decades. The NPG is therefore effectively asserting full control over these public domain paintings.
When Penguin publishes a PD book, it typesets, does layout work, proofreads, commissions printing, et al. The case in question's analogue is Google claiming copyright over their (often not even particularly good quality) public domain book scans at books.google.com and suing anybody that posts partial or full PDFs (or PDF extracted images) on their own website.

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Last edited by ahi; 07-17-2009 at 03:03 PM.
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Old 07-17-2009, 04:25 PM   #4
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There are differences between copyright of images and copyright of text. I can't remember that much about this issue, but I understand that here we are talking abour 2D (two-dimensional) copies of paintings, and in that case I'd think that the art gallery has a resonable case. As far as I remember, the owner of an image has the copyright to 2D reproductions (at least under USA and European laws/agreements).

As for Google scans; to claim copyright of the scan, it would have to be considered an image, and not a text. My understanding is that in this case, it would actually be the original publisher who held the copyright to 2D reproductions - but only if the scan of the page was considered an image and not a text.

Disclaimer: I haven't really read much about the case, so I might be miles off with this.
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Old 07-17-2009, 06:03 PM   #5
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In my estimation this phrase from wiki right here - (while also controlling access to the physical objects) should get NPG's claim tossed out with prejudice.

Even in an imperfect but halfway trying world. Defacto seizure of public domain property is an illegal monopoly.
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Old 07-17-2009, 08:16 PM   #6
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I'm a little bit confused about this, it seems that if the works are public domain, surely some kind soul would walk into the gallery and take some snaps of the works, putting the gallery out of the loop.

The gallery is obviously trying to look after their self-interest and doing so in a way that hurts the flow of information and knowledge on the Internet (something you wouldn't think a gallery would do). Probably an economic rationalist running the gallery who has decided that the collection of revenue for the gallery trumps the free sharing of art online.
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