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. 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. 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.
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.
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 — the V&A 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 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.