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UK's National Portrait Gallery Threatens To Sue Wikipedia User

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the pictures-of-pictures dept.

Censorship 526

jpatokal writes "The National Portrait Gallery of London is threatening litigation against a Wikipedia user over his uploading of pictures of some 3,000 paintings, all 19th century or earlier and firmly in the public domain. Their claim? The photos are a 'product of a painstaking exercise on the part of the photographer,' and that downloading them off the NPG site is an 'unlawful circumvention of technical measures.' And remember, the NPG's taxpayer-funded mission is to 'promote the appreciation and understanding of portraiture in all media [...] to as wide a range of visitors as possible!'"

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Result: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28659779)

Wikipedia will cave and take them down, and they'll end up on Wikileaks...

Re:Result: (2, Funny)

howlingmadhowie (943150) | more than 4 years ago | (#28660027)

that would be so typical of the modern age.

here on wikileaks we have details of covert military operations, evidence that the conspiracy theories are true and (particularly risky, this) photos of paintings from the 1790s.

i mean, wtf?

The law is on London's side (5, Informative)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#28659791)

The paintings may be in the public domain, but the photographs are copyright to the photographer.

So good luck to the dipshit user who uploaded them.

Re:The law is on London's side (0, Offtopic)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#28659807)

The paintings may be in the public domain, but the photographs are copyright to the photographer.

So good luck to the dipshit user who uploaded them.

I don't know if this is viable in London as I don't live there. But if it's remotely an option, then there are times when jury nullification is called for.

A good explanation of the concept can be found here [fija.org].

Re:The law is on London's side (2, Insightful)

h4rm0ny (722443) | more than 4 years ago | (#28659917)


So I pay for some photographs be taken, someone else takes 3,300 of them (they're clearly indicated as not for taking) and uploads them all to Wikimedia under a Creative Commons license that they have no right to apply to someone else's work, and this is a case for jury nullification?

Re:The law is on London's side (4, Insightful)

howlingmadhowie (943150) | more than 4 years ago | (#28659967)

well if your photos are of works of art long since in the public domain and your photos have no additional artistic merit, instead trying solely to be a true depiction of the work of art, then no, your photos shouldn't have any sort of copyright protection. infact your photos having copyright protection would be akin to pissing on the graves of the artists who painted the original works.

Re:The law is on London's side (4, Insightful)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 4 years ago | (#28659997)

Those photographs are part of the national heritage of England. They derive
this from the nature of they work they are photographs of. They aren't even
derivative works. They're just copies. THEY'RE COPIES. These asshats are
trying to claim ownership of COPIES of very public domain works.

This isn't even like a high school performance of Hamlet.

Mebbe if they did the Warhol thing with one of the old Kings they would
have a moral/aristic leg to stand on.

Re:The law is on London's side (5, Informative)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 4 years ago | (#28660201)

Bridgeman v Corel establishes firmly in US law that the photos are not in fact creative works, and that the images are public domain. The NPG's letter actually acknowledges this.

Re:The law is on London's side (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28660239)

Nope, it's not remotely viable in the UK, trial by jury almost never happens in civil cases, other than libel and civil actions against the police.

Re:The law is on London's side (4, Informative)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#28659827)

> The paintings may be in the public domain, but the photographs are copyright to the
> photographer.

Under UK law. As the letter from the lawyer admits, they are probably not protected by copyright at all in the US. Unfortunately, the parties appear to be residents of the UK. Where are the Wikipedia servers on which the photos now reside located?

Re:The law is on London's side (4, Informative)

Raul654 (453029) | more than 4 years ago | (#28659893)

The user they threatened, and the servers, are both located in the US. There's really no way for them to pursue this.

Re:The law is on London's side (2, Informative)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#28659945)

The user they threatened, and the servers, are both located in the US. There's really no way for them to pursue this.

Copyright law is international. Only a handful of nations have not signed on in whole or in part to the concept of copyright as it is known in the USA.

Re:The law is on London's side (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28659999)

That's why you put your servers in Nigeria, people!!

Note to self: buy Nigerian datacenters.

Re:The law is on London's side (5, Insightful)

Raul654 (453029) | more than 4 years ago | (#28660009)

If they sue him in the US, it'll get tossed out on the basis that the US does not recognize these works as having copright (or any "slavish" reproductions thereof, according to Corel v. Bridgeman); if they sue him in the UK, he can ignore the lawsuit, have a default judgement entered against him, and good luck to them in pursuing it.

Re:The law is on London's side (2, Funny)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#28660055)

he can ignore the lawsuit

I'm not a lawyer or anything ... but that just sounds like a really, really bad idea.

Re:The law is on London's side (1)

justinmikehunt (872382) | more than 4 years ago | (#28660113)

Yeah... It may not affect him while he's in the US, but if he ever decides to travel to the UK, he could be in some trouble!

Re:The law is on London's side (1)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 4 years ago | (#28660315)

How so? The UK has no power to enforce a lawsuit in the US.

Seriously, what are they going to do? Fine him if he ever goes to England?

Re:The law is on London's side (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28660145)

I wouldn't have thought he would have the slightest difficulty in enforcing, unless the US courts want to wave goodbye to having any of their judgments enforced on this side of the pond.

Re:The law is on London's side (1)

Raul654 (453029) | more than 4 years ago | (#28660281)

That's what reciprocal agreements are for. In general, these agreements say that one country will honor court judgments from another country provided that that other country has jurisdiction. That is almost certainly not the case here. The actions occurred in the US, the files were published on servers in the US, and all of this is legal under US law.

Re:The law is on London's side (1)

justinmikehunt (872382) | more than 4 years ago | (#28660181)

The works in the photo may not have copyright, but the fact is, the photos still have copyright. Let's say someone made a cd, where they performed songs that are all in public domain. They still get copyright over their version of the performance. The same would apply to a photo that you have taken.

Re:The law is on London's side (4, Informative)

Raul654 (453029) | more than 4 years ago | (#28660219)

The works in the photo may not have copyright, but the fact is, the photos still have copyright. - only if the photograph of that public domain work has sufficient creative input from the creator to create a new copyright. The bar for 'creative input' is fairly low (deciding where to stand in order to take a picture of a sculpture is enough), but a flatbed scan is clearly not enough, as the court explicitly found in the Bridgeman case.
 
  Let's say someone made a cd, where they performed songs that are all in public domain. They still get copyright over their version of the performance. - that is because the performance of a public domain work is different from the original work. These pictures are, by definition, not different.
 
  The same would apply to a photo that you have taken. - No, it doesn't. See above

 

Re:The law is on London's side (1)

LordNimon (85072) | more than 4 years ago | (#28660231)

have a default judgement entered against him, and good luck to them in pursuing it.

But he'll never be able to set foot in the U.K. again. I've never been to England, but I think losing the privilege of visiting that country would not be worth it.

Re:The law is on London's side (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#28660167)

> Copyright law is international.

No it isn't. While there are treaties that obligate the signatories to bring their copyright laws into conformance with some general principles the actual laws are national and are enforced only by national courts.

Re:The law is on London's side (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#28660267)

The Berne convention states that a work copyrighted in one signatory country will be treated as being copyrighted in all of the signatory countries. Note, that this just means that local copyright laws apply in all countries. For example, if you have two countries, one with 50-year copyright terms and one with 75-year terms, and you copyright a work in the former, then 60 years later it will still be in copyright in the second country but not the first.

Re:The law is on London's side (1)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 4 years ago | (#28660211)

Nope - the uploader is in the US, the servers are in the US, the WMF is in the US. This was unambiguously legal in the US under well-established copyright law.

They're making threats because they think they can bully him anyway.

Re:The law is on London's side (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28660291)

Most of them are located in Florida, USA, but I think wikimedia is about to start up a new data center in the Netherlands, Europe.

Re:The law is on London's side (0, Troll)

sys.stdout.write (1551563) | more than 4 years ago | (#28659849)

How is this modded Troll? It's a correct statement of U.K. law and relevant to the article.

What, does using the word "dipshit" automatically make something a troll post? Honestly, come on Slashdot..

Re:The law is on London's side (0, Offtopic)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#28659925)

How is this modded Troll? It's a correct statement of U.K. law and relevant to the article. What, does using the word "dipshit" automatically make something a troll post? Honestly, come on Slashdot..

That depends on whether the moderator agrees with you. If they do, then it's alright. If they don't, they are highly offended by your use of foul language. That level of maturity, dispassionate review, and strong character is amazing is it not?

Fuck it, I get tired of seeing that too and I have karma to burn. The difference between a good mod and a bad mod is that the good ones focus on promoting desirable posts. If they want to mod me down for saying this then they waste their points which is fine by me.

Re:The law is on London's side (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28659869)

Well that may be true under the law, but who cares? The laws is being written to serve corporate power elites, there's no reason to respect it anymore, just do what's right, not what's legal.

Re:The law is on London's side (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28660205)

Is that an invitation? I'm not too keen on RMS.

Re:The law is on London's side (2, Informative)

Vinegar Joe (998110) | more than 4 years ago | (#28659903)

The paintings may be in the public domain, but the photographs are copyright to the photographer.

So good luck to the dipshit user who uploaded them.

Doesn't that depend on whether or not the photos were made "work for hire"? Does the concept of "work for hire" exist in UK copyright law?

http://nylawline.typepad.com/photolawyer/work_for_hire/ [typepad.com]

Re:The law is on London's side (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28660011)

No matter what: the photo of the painting will be under copyright. Who owns the copyright is another matter.

From the surface it seems the London museum is in their legal rights. Whether it's morally OK and so, especially as the museum is tax funded and presumably owns the copyright to those photos is another matter.

Re:The law is on London's side (1)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 4 years ago | (#28660189)

False - Bridgeman v Corel. Mere sweat of the brow does not create a new copyright.

If you read the NPG's letter, they acknowledge that the uploader (an American) hasn't done anything against the law in the US. They're suing to bully.

So whose are the photographs? (3, Insightful)

h4rm0ny (722443) | more than 4 years ago | (#28659793)

Really, who took them? The site is Slashdotted, so we don't know. If a visitor to the gallery took the photographs and uploaded them, then it sounds fair enough. If a photographer working for the gallery itself took them, then it seems reasonable to say that they're the gallery's. Actually, the site has just loaded and it seems that the user downloaded the photographs from the NPG's own website. So TFS is misleading again. Is it me or is the sole aim of Slashdot editors to provoke flame wars to increase traffic and ad-revenue on their site?

Re:So whose are the photographs? (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28659829)

The summary makes that fact explicitly clear:

Their claim? The photos are a 'product of a painstaking exercise on the part of the photographer,' and that downloading them off the NPG site is an 'unlawful circumvention of technical measures.'

Well, that makes it straightforward. (5, Insightful)

Grendel Drago (41496) | more than 4 years ago | (#28659939)

Huh. Well, the Foundation has apparently taken the stand that this is okay by them [wikimedia.org]. This was done by a straw poll [wikimedia.org] , no less. (Why not just put up a poll asking if users should be able to upload random pictures on the internet that don't have a clear copyright assignment on them? What a fucking joke.)

These sorts of claims probably aren't valid in the United States, which is why museums here don't usually prohibit photography--people can just scan their books or postcards. On the other hand, museums in the UK do prohibit photography, because this allows them to retain copyright over the images. The postcards and books that they sell are still owned by them, and prohibiting photography means that they're the only source for those images.

It's vital to their funding model, and they're just protecting their interests. Suddenly cutting off a major stream of revenue would be catastrophic. On the other hand, museums in the States manage to get by with different revenue models. It's not like it's impossible for them to continue existing, but I can understand why they'd fight to protect their model.

Re:Well, that makes it straightforward. (1)

howlingmadhowie (943150) | more than 4 years ago | (#28660003)

as if british museums get more than 0.1% of their money through selling photos. british museums are paid for through the taxes of the citizens of great britain and northern irland. prohibiting photography used to be about fear of damaging the works of art or annoying the visitors.

Re:Well, that makes it straightforward. (1)

bagorange (1531625) | more than 4 years ago | (#28660159)

got a ref for that 0.1%?

or at least some evidence that your guess is more educated than average?

Re:Well, that makes it straightforward. (3, Informative)

JustinOpinion (1246824) | more than 4 years ago | (#28660169)

Why not just put up a poll asking if users should be able to upload random pictures on the internet that don't have a clear copyright assignment on them? What a fucking joke.

And yet, despite the process being "a fucking joke", the community does not allow the upload of random pictures on the internet that they don't have a clear copyright assignment for. In fact, with respect to photographs of public-domain art, the community appears to have voted that only simple reproduction-style photographs of 2-dimensional artwork are presumptively acceptable, since photography of 3-dimensional art would necessary include creative elements (framing, lighting).

You may disagree with the result of their debate and consensus in this (and other) cases, but pretending that Wikimedia's self-policing is "a joke" and that they allow themselves any and all liberties is frankly ridiculous. A large number of Wikipedia pages have those "Have a free picture? Upload it." boxes precisely because they are quite strict about the requirement for images used on their pages.

Re:Well, that makes it straightforward. (1)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 4 years ago | (#28660289)

Bridgeman v Corel [wikipedia.org] - the photos are quite definitely not copyrighted in the US.

The NPG's letter acknowledges that the US uploader did nothing illegal in US law, and that they're just threatening legal action because they think they can.

Very little funding comes from sales of postcards. Most is from public donations - e.g. $5 million from a US donor recently. Who will quite definitely be getting Wikimedians asking him if trying to work around US law is really something he wanted his money spent on.

Re:So whose are the photographs? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28659947)

You and your parent are conveniently leaving out the bit about being "taxpayer-funded". Take the Hubble space telescope pictures: those were incomparably more painstaking to obtain, yet the pictures are in the public domain.

Re:So whose are the photographs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28659855)

That may be so, but they are going against their own publicly stated policy then, as the summary points out.

This would be a good time for the gallery to take action to support the publication of the photos in other media, even if that means hiring another photographer and retaking all the photos, then replacing the ones that seem to be rightfully in breach of copyright.

Not good public relations for the gallery is it?

Re:So whose are the photographs? (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#28659865)

> So TFS is misleading again.

How?

Re:So whose are the photographs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28659983)

For some odd reason the summary refers to the 19th century paintings as being in the public domain.
It doesn't mention who took the photos and who owns the copyrights on them, but includes the quote, "The photos are a 'product of a painstaking exercise on the part of the photographer [...]". So, presumably the uploader is not the photographer .. but TFS skirts right over that...

Re:So whose are the photographs? (2)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | more than 4 years ago | (#28660071)

Do you know what 19th century means? Here's a hint: 1800-1899. That would be public domain.

As for the photos, presumably the museum owns the copyright (although, the whole question is whether they can even claim a copyright at all--in the US probably not, in the UK maybe).

Well no shit the uploader is not the photographer. Did you need a degree in formal logic to figure that out?

The TFS doesn't skirt over any of this, you're just being intentionally dense (I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt on this one).

Re:So whose are the photographs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28660275)

I can see the painting's copyright status having implications for reproducing painting itself.
The summary is about reproducing a photograph of the painting, which also by the way has text embedded in it.

Re:So whose are the photographs? (3, Informative)

TorKlingberg (599697) | more than 4 years ago | (#28660005)

A photographer working for the gallery itself took them. They do not allow visitors to take photos to protect their monopoly of reproductions of public domain paintings. In the US, a simple photo of a painting is not copyrighted because it has no original input. The gallery claims it is different in the UK, but who knows?

Re:So whose are the photographs? (1)

BobTheLawyer (692026) | more than 4 years ago | (#28660299)

As a matter of UK law, the gallery's position is most likely correct. How it enforces this against Wikipedia and/or the user in question is a different story...

Re:So whose are the photographs? (1)

CheshireCatCO (185193) | more than 4 years ago | (#28660039)

In as much as I'm 99% certain that the National Portrait Gallery doesn't allow photography in the site, I'd say that these are not the user's photos.

Unfortunately (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28659797)

Unfortunately there is such a thing as a copyright on collections of data. Since the collection of photographs was created by the photographer, it may be covered by copyright, even though the original pictures are in the public domain and each single photograph would count as a mere reproduction, not an individual work of art.

No; it's not the collection. (4, Informative)

Grendel Drago (41496) | more than 4 years ago | (#28659949)

Under UK law, slavish reproductions of two-dimensional art are copyrightable in and of themselves, even if the original art isn't copyrighted. If the museum created these photos, they can claim copyright on them. Such a claim wouldn't stand up in the United States, but it probably would there.

Re:No; it's not the collection. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28659981)

Under UK law, slavish reproductions of two-dimensional art are copyrightable in and of themselves, even if the original art isn't copyrighted. If the museum created these photos, they can claim copyright on them. Such a claim wouldn't stand up in the United States, but it probably would there.

LOLWUT

Re:No; it's not the collection. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28660127)

Under UK law, slavish reproductions of two-dimensional art are copyrightable in and of themselves

[Citation needed]

Ban the NPG ip ranges from wikipedia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28659805)

They'll soon give in. How are they going to write those cards underneath the paintings without wikipedia?

Some Questions & Comments About Firefox 3.5 (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28659809)

I have to say that Firefox is getting a lot worse lately. The user experience is in serious need of improvement and development is the pits. I installed the latest "big deal" Firefox update on June 30th. (For some reason they skipped a full four secondary updates, but whatever.) Upon restarting, which took several minutes, I began using Firefox 3.5 [mozilla.com].

At first, Firefox seemed strangely familiar. I thought they had changed very little unnecessarily until I visited the Acid3 [acidtests.org] test. Lo and behold, I was still using Firefox 3.0.0.11. What the fuck? I manually invoked Check for Updates and repeated my first attempt only to find, upon restarting, the same thing.

Finally in desperation I downloaded the installer manually from Mozilla [mozilla.com]. The install ran surprisingly quickly and, after a few minutes, I was launched with the new version. I had to check, though, because again I thought it looked like very little had changed.

In fact, did Mozilla bother changing anything beside the JavaScript? The new TraceMonkey is great and all, but they could have at least made it look like they were working on something else. When the most noticeable improvement is the "Know Your Rights" button (which everyone ignores) one really starts to wonder what the fuss was all about.

Well, after the three tries it took to upgrade, I found my profile wouldn't migrate. This was a mess, but I was able to eventually retrieve my bookmarks from a long, arcane file path in a hidden directory. But then upon visiting my bookmarked sites I found that almost none of my add-ons are compatible with it. Therefore my browser is almost entirely functionless.

The bookmark tool itself could use a polishing. It's a mess and has been since version 1.0. If a browser is meant to render and organize content, Firefox surely falls down in this area. Why does it take me several minutes to slosh through the GUI just to make a new folder and alphabetize some bookmarks in it? Not to mention the damned Bookmarks toolbar, which takes up too much damn space and can't be turned off.

And speaking of the GUI, it's slow as Hell slowget rid of the proprietary XUL and just hardcode the damned interface already!

I also have to mention memory use. On my system, Firefox was swallowing an incredible 400 MB with only a simple HTML 4 table open. 400 MB?! I blame this on the Firefox team's use of C++, where memory management is about as easy as herding cats. Likewise Firefox is a slow, bloated nightmare. (For a contrast, there's Safari [apple.com], which is written in Objective C and is very small and efficient.)

Most of the time I have heavy JavaScript sites open. I shudder to think how much Firefox eats then, and I'll be sure to check in the future. No wonder my system tends to slow down when I've left Firefox open for days on end with dynamically updating pages and RSS feeds. Clearly, Firefox leaks memory like a cracked sieve in a waterfall.

With Firefox smelling more and more like crapware, I started to dig a little, first on Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] and then on the Mozilla Development Forums [mozilla.org]. It turns out that my observations are part of a larger pattern of Firefox quality issues and development customs. The Mozilla developers are a bunch of arrogant, abusive shitheads.

For starters, they're still running all tabs in the same process. This is something IE7 and Safari 3 have had right for years. So if a plugin crashes or a page takes forever to finish rendering, everything's stuck. You can't even switch tabs to another page! And Firefox 3.5 is a "milestone" release? Firefox 3.6 and 4 are milestones too, and process-per-tab isn't scheduled for either.

Developer interaction with Firefox users is stilted too. Sometimes Bugzilla [mozilla.org] reports are dismissed out of hand, only to be reopened when something goes terribly wrong later. I also saw instances of reported security flaws sitting years before being patched. In one case, someone released an exploit to point out the deep holes in Firefox before anyone did anything.

One time, a user with some programming experience suggested a bugfix to the wishlist. One programmer, whom I will not publicly name, suggested the user submit patches "once his balls dropped," if he were even male. If this were a real company and not a bunch of arrogant hacker hippies, user antagonism and sexism would never be acceptable. When I read this particular incident I uninstalled Firefox for good.

If anyone else has complaints about Firefox, post them here. For a browser that's taken nearly a third of the market, it's doing so with an incredibly broken development model and backend. Just imagine if the Firefox team actually treated its users right or prioritized projects properly. Maybe then the web would move beyond the mess of incompatibile standards and site hacks it is today.

Until then, Firefox is just another out-of-control Open Source project that needs a good stiff slap in the face.

Re:Some Questions & Comments About Firefox 3.5 (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28659825)

*17 minutes* to copy a file on your Mac, you say?

Copyright mess (2, Interesting)

enrevanche (953125) | more than 4 years ago | (#28659837)

Unfortunately photos are always copyrighted, even if they are just an attempt at reproducing something not currently covered. You can always copy the text of something out of copyright, photo reproduction should be no different. If the photos are taken in a way to represent more than just the original image, then they should be considered original work. But when they are an attempt to represent just the original image, they should not be copyrightable. It is after all, the original image that was the creative work.

Re:Copyright mess (1)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 4 years ago | (#28659873)

>>Unfortunately photos are always copyrighted, even if they are just an attempt at reproducing something not currently covered.

Uh, sorta. It really depends if they're considered duplicates or original works. Duplicates generally have the same rights as the original.

Re:Copyright mess (3, Informative)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#28659889)

> But when they are an attempt to represent just the original image, they should not be
> copyrightable.

And in the USA they aren't. Unfortunately these events are occuring in Europe.

Re:Copyright mess (3, Informative)

Raul654 (453029) | more than 4 years ago | (#28660031)

Unfortunately these events are occuring in Europe. - no, they are not. The user they threatened is in the US, and the servers he uploaded to are in the US.

Re:Copyright mess (1)

Renraku (518261) | more than 4 years ago | (#28659951)

Wasn't it said a while back that a plain photograph of a public domain image automatically goes into public domain, unless it can be proven that the photograph is, in some way, unique? It sets a scary precedent if not.

Imagine being able to rescue your about-to-expire work of video/audio/music by re-recording it and calling it new? The base film would never be allowed to hit public domain because they could just sue anyone that uploads it, claiming that it's a re-recorded version with copyright.

TFS - Photographer? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28659887)

So any guy who can right click on an image in Firefox and then choose 'Save As' is now considered a photographer by Slashdot? I guess the standards are lower here.

I can't see that they're wrong (0)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 4 years ago | (#28659901)

I can't entirely see that they are wrong. Yes, the paintings themselves are in the public domain, but that does not mean that the photographs (a derivative work) are automatically in the public domain. It's no different than if I rewrote a work of fiction that's in the public domain, my work is still covered by copyright.

Re:I can't see that they're wrong (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28659953)

Only if the photograph has enough originality to get copyright. In the US, a simple photo of a painting is not copyrighted. In he UK it seems to be unclear.

Re:I can't see that they're wrong (1)

Raul654 (453029) | more than 4 years ago | (#28660021)

but that does not mean that the photographs (a derivative work) are automatically in the public domain - in the US, yes, they are. [wikipedia.org]

NPG web site makes it clear (5, Informative)

Bazman (4849) | more than 4 years ago | (#28659911)

http://www.npg.org.uk/business/images/use-on-web.php [npg.org.uk]

----

Using our images on websites

Do the right thing!

You need permission to use our images on your website.

Here's how to apply (it's easy):

      1. Tell us which images you would like to use (e.g. NPG 1, William Shakespeare).
      2. Tell us how you would like to feature the image, and how long for.
      3. Tell is whether your website is personal, academic, commercial or corporate.
      4. Provide us with the URL and your postal address.
      5. Let us know who is sponsoring the site (i.e. who pays the bills!).

Why not send your application now, by e-mail to rightsandimages@npg.org.uk.

        * We will then reply, to let you know if permission is available.
        * We will also let you know how much it is going to cost.
        * If you confirm you order in writing and provide full payment, we will fulfil your order as quickly as possible and supply the images with a licence to use them in your project.
        * The specific terms of the licence are set out in the invoice (you'll need to get further permission if you want to use the images in any other way) while the general terms are spelt out carefully in our terms & conditions.

For a guide to our rates, or if you would like more details before applying, download our standard pdf website information pack comprising

        * an introduction
        * an application form
        * a table of current rates
        * our full terms & conditions

----

  Maybe I'll get sued for copying their FAQ text now...

Re:NPG web site makes it clear (1)

Necroloth (1512791) | more than 4 years ago | (#28659979)

mod up!

it's not as if there was a difficult process of obtaining the photos and if the NPG were going to charge the user to upload the photos on Wikipedia then he could always look elsewhere for photos or take them him/herself!

I think a lot of people forget common courtesy when they're on the net... if you're going to use someone else's effort, you should at least notify them. To me, this seems just like a case of ignorance... the user was simply filling out an entry and taking photos from official sites but not taking the time to read or even ask for permission

Re:NPG web site makes it clear (1)

Marcika (1003625) | more than 4 years ago | (#28660075)

mod up!

it's not as if there was a difficult process of obtaining the photos and if the NPG were going to charge the user to upload the photos on Wikipedia then he could always look elsewhere for photos or take them him/herself!

I think a lot of people forget common courtesy when they're on the net... if you're going to use someone else's effort, you should at least notify them. To me, this seems just like a case of ignorance... the user was simply filling out an entry and taking photos from official sites but not taking the time to read or even ask for permission

No, this is a case of purposely ignoring horribly bad copyright law in a country where a) the user doesn't reside b) the Commons server doesn't reside. Also, the picture wouldn't be usable for commons even if the museum gave their permission, because commons doesn't do "with permission", it needs PD, GFDL or CC without NC - so YOU can mirror it and not get sued.

Re:NPG web site makes it clear (1)

JustinOpinion (1246824) | more than 4 years ago | (#28660107)

The process is not difficult for one or two photos, but would be prohibitive for many photos. Moreover it is unlikely they would grant permission for so many photos to be used elsewhere, as demonstrated by the fact that they are threatening to sue over this issue.

Common courtesy is important. On the other hand, the real question is whether the user has "the right" to do this even if they object (legally and morally). I can't comment on the legality (IANAL), but I don't see any ethical problem with distributing simple reproduction-style pictures of public-domain art. As such, I think the user had/has the freedom to upload them elsewhere. And freedom stops being freedom if you need to ask permission to exercise it. Yes, it would be "nice" to ask permission and refrain if they don't like it... but on the other hand it's not immoral to ignore their feelings and exercise your freedoms.

Taken to the extreme, the "common courtesy" argument becomes banal. A store may request that I never do business with their competitors, and I guess it would be "nice" of me to comply with their request. But ultimately their request has no legal nor moral backing. As such I can and will continue to exercise my freedoms and do business with competitors. That's the power of freedom.

Re:NPG web site makes it clear (5, Insightful)

BasilBrush (643681) | more than 4 years ago | (#28660045)

It makes it clear how the National Portrait Gallery WANTS to make additional money from reproductions of classical artworks. It doesn't make it clear whether that is right. If the lawyer's interpretation of the law i right, the NPG does have the right under UK copyright law to do so. However it's morally wrong because:

1) The law is flawed: The act of photographing a painting with the best quality of reproduction of the original is a technical exercise, not a creative act. It's not essentially different from an experienced photocopier operator making a photocopy. It should not therefore add additional copyright privileges over and above the item that is being photographed.

2) The National Portrait Gallery is a public body who receive public funds on the basis that they display and educate a many people as possible about the artworks they have. The ability to disseminate high quality reproductions via the internet at no cost to them should be thought of as a godsend, not as a financial loss. They are supposed to be serving the public good, not acting like a corporation. Thus even if the law could prevent this happening, they shouldn't use it.

These plaintiffs are being very reasonable (5, Informative)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | more than 4 years ago | (#28659961)

I've read the complaint. (OK, I admit it, I'm a Slashdot user who Reads The Fine Article.) They've being completely reasonable: they explain the law, they ask for (almost entirely) reasonable steps to avoid the lawsuit, and they offer to cooperate in providing _low resolution_ images for the use of Wikimedia.

If I ever get sued, I want to be sued by these people. They're working with the law and with their client's needs, and not violating the public's needs for information.

Re:These plaintiffs are being very reasonable (4, Insightful)

Raul654 (453029) | more than 4 years ago | (#28660019)

They're threatening an american user for doing what is perfectly legal in the US on servers based in the US. Their copyright claims have no merit whatsoever.

Re:These plaintiffs are being very reasonable (2, Insightful)

jameslore (219771) | more than 4 years ago | (#28660059)

Did they obtain the images from a British server?

Jurisdiction is a messy topic on the internet. If you want to play silly buggers with it then you can probably expect such websites to be restricted to UK IPs. Shame, but if good faith isn't shown they won't have much choice to protect their rights under local law.

Re:These plaintiffs are being very reasonable (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28660061)

Yeah, but do you want to perpetuate the stereotype of the American ass -- the "I can cuz i'm an 'merican" -- even though the suing party is cooperative?

Re:These plaintiffs are being very reasonable (1)

CheshireCatCO (185193) | more than 4 years ago | (#28660129)

I must have missed something: how is this legal in the US?

Re:These plaintiffs are being very reasonable (2, Informative)

Raul654 (453029) | more than 4 years ago | (#28660157)

US courts have already ruled [wikipedia.org] that "slavishly accurate" reproductions of public domain works have no copyright protection.

Re:These plaintiffs are being very reasonable (1)

jrumney (197329) | more than 4 years ago | (#28660323)

Copyright only applies to original artistic works, a mechanical reproduction made many years later does not extend the copyright or have a copyright of its own.

Re:These plaintiffs are being very reasonable (1)

gabebear (251933) | more than 4 years ago | (#28660151)

To me it doesn't sound reasonable, they are wasting a LOT of money on a lawsuit that they know can't go anywhere. Launching frivolous lawsuits using tax payer funds is repugnant. The user was within his rights as an US citizen to ignore the UK law prohibiting him from downloading the images.

If the NPG didn't want the images to be used under US copyright law, then they shouldn't have put them in the internet. If they didn't realize what they were doing, then it's their fault.

Re:These plaintiffs are being very reasonable (2, Insightful)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | more than 4 years ago | (#28660277)

What possibly makes you think this lawsuit "won't go anywhere"? The violation is very clear, they're not asking for outrageous damages, and the law seems clearly in their favor. And the UK is very copyright friendly: people have been deliberately "shopping" to file their copyright lawsuits there for years now. They have a very reasonable chance of winning their lawsuit.

And it's hardly waste: the material existing at Wikimedia cuts directly into their own website traffic, and related revenues.

Re:These plaintiffs are being very reasonable (0)

TorKlingberg (599697) | more than 4 years ago | (#28660177)

They may very well be misrepresenting the law in their own favor. Is as plain photograph of a public domain painting really copyrightable in the UK?

In any case, should a publicly funded institution really claim copyright of these photos when the won't let anyone else take photos of these old paintings?

Re:These plaintiffs are being very reasonable (1)

Xadnem (1120075) | more than 4 years ago | (#28660279)

What exactly are the client's 'needs' in this case, as a publicly funded organisation? Or rather, where is the harm/what is their injury?

I use an IR camera as well as VIS (4, Interesting)

purduephotog (218304) | more than 4 years ago | (#28659971)

I have a modified IR camera I use that I built to photograph artwork- it's amazing what you can sometimes see 'underneath' the paints the artist chose.

In one gallery in Germany I saw a work of art in IR that had been severely damaged and retouched- it was clearly evident in the IR photograph but not in the VIS photograph. I showed them to the curator (I spoke no German and he spoke no English) and tried to ask what had happened to it in its history (as there was no statement of that on the work).

I swear the man was going to shit a brick. He had a look of pure panic on his face when he saw the IR photograph- I think he immediately ran up there to check on it. I don't think he understood what he was seeing (not surprising) so my wife and I left ASAP.

Now to me, IR would bring value- so would UV photographs of the artwork. I know there are places that can do this much more professionally ... but hey, a hobby is a hobby.

The museum is out of line. In a 'real world' they'd lose. They'll probably respond by banning photography and forcing anyone that does want to do shots to sign a waiver.

Re:I use an IR camera as well as VIS (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#28660255)

> The museum is out of line. In a 'real world' they'd lose. They'll probably respond by
> banning photography and forcing anyone that does want to do shots to sign a waiver.

They do ban photography.

Wait a sec- he took the photos or someone else? (-1)

purduephotog (218304) | more than 4 years ago | (#28660015)

I just re-read the letter- they're claiming he downloaded the images that someone else took and uploaded them to Wiki. That is a clear violation in every sense of the law- he doesn't own the images (public domain) and he is using someone elses work without attribution.

I was under the impression he had taken the photos himself and uploaded them. If that's not the case then he's an idiot and really ought to do the right thing here- remove them- and redirect them to the museum's website.

There may be some room for negotiation but I'd say he's starting from a deep hole.

Sorry for misreading it- editors could do a little better job editing story titles to reflect what is actually happening rather than just putting their spin on it.

Re:Wait a sec- he took the photos or someone else? (1)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 4 years ago | (#28660137)

No, the images are unambiguously public domain in the US, no matter how much sweat of the brow went into them. Bridgeman v Corel. What the NPG is doing is basically copyfraud.

Re:Wait a sec- he took the photos or someone else? (1)

CheshireCatCO (185193) | more than 4 years ago | (#28660175)

Did they edit the blurb? It now reads, " and that downloading them off the NPG site is an 'unlawful circumvention of technical measures.'" That seems pretty clear to me. (But maybe that's because when I was in the NPG 4 years ago, I'm pretty sure that they didn't allow photography. I certain didn't take any pictures, I would have I'm sure.)

He could have.... (3, Informative)

julian67 (1022593) | more than 4 years ago | (#28660099)

He could have just asked for permission to use the pictures. The NPG is not some corporate hawk, it's publicly funded, having an ethos of education and self improvement for all, in the Victorian tradition. The person who obtained the images chose to ignore this and harvest thousands of high resolution images (why does Wikipedia need high-res to display 96dpi???), circumventing copy protection in the process. The sale of these images, at extremely reasonable and non-commercial rates, is one of the sources of funding for the NPG.

Dcoetzee has brought into conflict two organisations which should normally benefit from each other, damaged the reputation of Wikipedia and all around acted like an idiot.

Re:He could have.... (4, Insightful)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 4 years ago | (#28660171)

False. Wikipedia doesn't do "for Wikipedia" licensing, and can't - its mission is to make reusable content.

Also, you're saying the NPG has to lock up culture to promote it, and sue people who actually promote it. This doesn't actually make sense.

The NPG actually acknowledges in their letter that the poster's actions were entirely legal in America, and that they're making a threat just because they think they can.

The Wikimedia community and the WMF are absolutely on the side of these public domain images remaining in the public domain.

The NPG will be getting radioactive publicity from this. Imagine the NPG being known to American tourists as somewhere that sues Americans just because it thinks it can.

Sue and be subject to radioactive publicity (5, Informative)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 4 years ago | (#28660121)

For several years, the National Portrait Gallery has claimed copyright over public domain images in their possession. Wikimedia has ignored these claims, occasionally laughing. (Bridgeman v. Corel [wikipedia.org]. Sweat of the brow is not creation in US law; go away.) Our official stance in this time has been "sue and be damned."

So the National Portrait Gallery has tried. Here's their letter [wikimedia.org]. A lollipop for every misconception or unlikely or impossible demand. This was sent after (so they claim) the WMF ignored their latest missive. The editor they sent the threat to is ... an American [wikipedia.org].

A UK organisation is threatening an American with legal action over uploading images that are public domain in the US to an American server — unambiguously, in established US law, not a copyright violation of any sort. I wonder how the case will go.

The letter is particularly odious in that it admits that his actions were completely within US law, but threatens to make his life a misery just because they think they can unless he (an individual) can actually make the WMF do something the NPG wants. This is actually worse than the RIAA.

It's most unfortunate that the National Portrait Gallery considers this in any way sensible behaviour, considering how well we've been going with museum partnerships for Wikipedia Loves Art [wikipedia.org] — the V&A [wikipedia.org] were fantastically helpful and lovely people, who realise that spreading their name and exhibits far and wide is much more likely to get them money and fame than claims of copyright over works hundreds of years old.

I can't see this ending well for the National Portrait Gallery, whatever happens. Anyone who could speak on their behalf at this level won't be in until Monday; I wonder if they'll be surprised at the people politely queueing with pitchforks and torches.

I'll be calling them [npg.org.uk] first thing Monday (in my capacity as "just a blogger on Wikimedia-related topics") to establish just what they think they're doing here. Other bloggers and, if interested, journalists may wish to do the same, to establish what their consistent response is.

Re:Sue and be subject to radioactive publicity (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28660263)

A UK organisation is threatening an American with legal action over uploading images that are public domain in the US to an American server â" unambiguously, in established US law, not a copyright violation of any sort. I wonder how the case will go.

Hopefully he will be extradited under the UK and US extradition agreements that have seen UK gambling site owners extradited to the US amongst other things for providing services that are perfectly legal in the UK.

Re:Sue and be subject to radioactive publicity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28660283)

Look, mate, you are coming across as "Music wants to be freeeeeee" bittorrenter here.

These photos took the NPG a lot of money to get taken and they recoup some of that cash by selling high res images. They are trying to protect that business model. UK law (where the images were taken, and stored) probably protects it. They have offered to provide low res photos for wikimedia. What exactly is the problem?

The net result of your position is that other museums in the UK will stop making their catalogues available on t'internet, because anyone can rip em off. How is that in anyone's interest?

Re:Sue and be subject to radioactive publicity (1)

Josh04 (1596071) | more than 4 years ago | (#28660319)

"A UK organisation is threatening an American with legal action over uploading images that are public domain in the US to an American server â" unambiguously, in established US law, not a copyright violation of any sort. I wonder how the case will go. " Well done for completely glossing over that the images themselves are British, located in Britain. Thanks too for the strong implication that US law is the only law. It's always fun when you meet a stereotype.

"the NPG's taxpayer-funded mission" (5, Interesting)

Lemming Mark (849014) | more than 4 years ago | (#28660199)

The NPG's UK taxpayer-funded mission.

So they're working under UK law. It kinda sucks that our copyright laws and, in some ways, less friendly than the US. Even stuff the government itself produces is not public domain over here. But that's the law here, that's how it works.

Making a high resolution reproduction of a work of art requires special equipment and skills, so I really think it's fair enough if that's copyright - somebody has invested money, skills and effort in making the reproduction be as good as possible. The situation is different in the US but the NPG ain't in the US. If the UK taxpayer funded it and UK law says that it's copyrightable, you can understand the NPG feeling the need to protect the UK taxpayer's investment by maintaining control of the images.

Given they control their own reproductions of the pictures, would it be acceptable for them to deny visitors the right to take their own photographs? I think not. But that's a separate debate because this guy didn't go there and invest the time to make photographs that he would then have had copyright on under UK law, he downloaded them from the National Gallery's website. I agree with the many posters before me that whilst it somewhat sucks that these creative works aren't available digitally in the public domain, the NPG are really being pretty reasonable about this - they've offered to work out terms for lower resolution imagery to be made available to Wikipedia, which is a lot more constructive than you'd expect from a corporate entity. It really looks like they're trying to defend their legal position sensibly whilst still facilitating the transfer of information - good for them.

But, please, Wikipedia users and everyone else - feel free to increase pressure on our government and institutions (and those in other countries) to have a strong public domain and sensible, fair copyright laws. We still have further to go, it's just a question of how we choose to represent ourselves.

Re:"the NPG's taxpayer-funded mission" (1)

Xadnem (1120075) | more than 4 years ago | (#28660311)

"somebody has invested money, skills and effort in making the reproduction be as good as possible."

True, a lot of sweat went into it, but does that make it an original work of art which should be afforded the same protections as a any other piece under the law? Apparently under UK law, yes; fairly dumb if ya ask me.

Heart of the global nature of the internet (4, Insightful)

gurps_npc (621217) | more than 4 years ago | (#28660271)

This issue strikes at the heart of the international nature of the internet.

1. In the UK, it would be a crime.

2. In the USA it is not a crime.

3. The act was done in the USA.

QED no crime was committed. The problem is that by inference we need a single global law for all electronically copyable information. That includes all photos, art, music, movies, books, etc.

The thing that makes the problem difficult is A. There is no global organization with anything close to the authority or trust to create such a global law and B. There are SIGNIFICANT philosophical differences about the kinds of laws we need. Whether it is is Freedom of the Press issue, a slander issue, or even business model issues (I personally think a 10 year renewable with sequel, copyright system would work best) there is HUGE disagreement still on what is fair and workable.

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