Has anyone been in touch with the National Portrait Gallery?

I was going to call NPG this morning first thing as a volunteer, to see what could be reasonably done to avert a public battle — a public battle would really foul up our other museum liaison volunteers’ ongoing efforts. But I was awake all night with a sick child and so I just got up …

Has anyone reading this called yet, as a volunteer? Physchim62, who did a lot to get the American Chemical Society working with us, was going to call. Has anyone else?

(I don’t hold out much hope for this — the NPG’s position has been completely consistent and completely uncooperative for many years. But it’s always worth asking.)

It’s reasonably important to avoid directly going into details of the possible legal case, for Dcoetzee’s sake — but the NPG’s lawyers have effectively written a press release read by ten thousand Wikimedians and a million Slashdot readers. The letter clearly does directly and personally threaten a lot of them. I bet it’s been more widely read than any intentional NPG press release has been.

Ideal outcome: PD everything, they welcome a team of our photographers in.

Plausible good outcome: We put up the hi-res images with notes that they are PD in the US but the NPG claims copyright in Europe and releases them under copyleft, and full credit is requested in either case. (Copyleft is not as ideal as PD, but it’s plenty good enough for us.) We issue press releases lauding the NPG to the skies and say nice things about them forever.

Another plausible good outcome: They welcome a team of our photographers in. Careful supervision, etc. Then we can do stuff like infrared shots as well (which can show interesting things about a painting’s restoration history).

Awful outcome: great big legal and public relations battle. Even if we or they win, we both lose.

Bad outcome: mainstream press about this at all, really. It will hamper our efforts with other museums. The NPG probably doesn’t see it that way.

Any other possible outcomes to list?

Additional data point: the NPG has removed the hi-res versions. Thus, the Wikimedia copies are the only copies currently available. This makes it actually culturally important for us to keep them up!

Meanwhile, here’s an article you must read on this topic: Public Domain Art in an Age of Easier Mechanical Reproducibility by Kenneth Hamma, Executive Director for Digital Policy, J. Paul Getty Trust. Precis: do your best to get as many of the highest-quality copies out there as you can.

37 thoughts on “Has anyone been in touch with the National Portrait Gallery?”

  1. Interesting, the National Portrait Gallery has now taken down staff email addresses and telephone numbers from their website. On the other hand, they have published the fact that there are SIX staff in the picture library to generate £378,000 of income: after deducting salaries and office costs, there can be hardly any profit at all.

  2. “Additional data point: the NPG has removed the hi-res versions. Thus, the Wikimedia copies are the only copies currently available. This makes it actually culturally important for us to keep them up!”

    Congratulations, the Wikimedia Foundation’s refusal to accept that the images are protected under copyright in the United Kingdom has resulted in the National Portrait Gallery (quite reasonably) deciding that it can no longer host high resolution images due to the risk of infringement. Give yourselves a round of applause. This isn’t a reason to hastily disseminate the infringing images, but a key example of the damage that ignoring another nation’s laws for convenience can lead to.

    As a British taxpayer, I’m fully with the National Portrait Gallery on this. They own the rights to those images, have attempted to find a reasonable solution with the Wikimedia Foundation, and have gone to this legal stage after exhausting the other avenues. They seem to have acted entirely honourably in this case, and I suspect could have used much larger legal hammers to crack this particular nut.

    Calling the images ‘public domain’ does not make them public domain, no matter how much you may wish it. The images are protected under copyright in the United Kingdom.

  3. You forgot “outcome which NPG have suggested”. Wiki has lo-res images which link to the NPG’s high-resolution images. All your suggestions are along the lines of “we get what we want, that’s good!”

    But no, the only suitable outcome here is the final one, a long drawn out court case to firmly establish copyright claims in the UK and if 2D images in the UK are subject to copyright or not. Yes, it may cost a lot of money, there will be appeals, and appeals to appeals before eventually reaching the house of lords, it may end up costing hundreds of thousands of pounds in solicitors fees for both sides (that is assuming of course the WMF/uploader defend their case, if they don’t the courts automatically side with the NPG), but it will end this debate once and forever.

    The bitter irony of this is, the NPG wouldn’t have had to have taken down the high-res images if they had not been stolen and posted onto the wiki. Chicken and egg, cause and effect, call it what you want, by not respecting copyright laws in the UK, we have all lost the chance to view these images in high-definition, you have 3,000, that means we’re missing out on 13,000 other images.

  4. This seems to be an entirely sensible solution outlined by the NPG here:

    http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Kaldari/NPG_email

    Free lower resolution images on a Wikipedia only licence, with attribution links to the National Portrait Gallery site. Quite reasonable, quite open, quite a good idea.

    Unless you demand that everything on Wikipedia has to be free for anyone to use for anything. Then it’s a problem.

  5. David, exactly. If Wikimedia are unable to accept images under copyright with the restrictions requested from the copyright holder, then they have excluded themselves from accepting that image.

    Having a policy which is incompatible with copyright does not mean that you then get to ignore copyright.

  6. Also, what’s your policy regarding moderating comments? This still appears to be in the queue above:

    “Additional data point: the NPG has removed the hi-res versions. Thus, the Wikimedia copies are the only copies currently available. This makes it actually culturally important for us to keep them up!”

    Congratulations, the Wikimedia Foundation’s refusal to accept that the images are protected under copyright in the United Kingdom has resulted in the National Portrait Gallery (quite reasonably) deciding that it can no longer host high resolution images due to the risk of infringement. Give yourselves a round of applause. This isn’t a reason to hastily disseminate the infringing images, but a key example of the damage that ignoring another nation’s laws for convenience can lead to.

    As a British taxpayer, I’m fully with the National Portrait Gallery on this. They own the rights to those images, have attempted to find a reasonable solution with the Wikimedia Foundation, and have gone to this legal stage after exhausting the other avenues. They seem to have acted entirely honourably in this case, and I suspect could have used much larger legal hammers to crack this particular nut.

    Calling the images ‘public domain’ does not make them public domain, no matter how much you may wish it. The images are protected under copyright in the United Kingdom.

  7. The NPG has not only removed email addresses and telephone numbers from its site, but also instituted an acceptance queue for email massages to its Press Office. Batten down the hatches is their line, far from the desire for dialogue that they wish to spread among those select individuals whom they chose to talk to!

    The NPG’s stance is ever more unacceptable. Not only have they refused chances of dialogue, choosing instead the approach of a letter for a very expensive firm of London solicitors, not only have they chosen to restrict access to the works in their control, (hence going against their statutory duties), but now they think they can bunker down on a corner of Trafalgar Square without being called to account.

    As I’m sure that people connected with the NPG will be reading this, do not think that those responsible for this lunacy will escape without the public ridicule that they more than deserve.

  8. Erm… Did you avoid looking at the ‘Contact Us’ page? The one with the contacts via phone and e-mail for a number of different areas, including the press office.

    http://www.npg.org.uk/about/contactus.php

    Seeing as that’s there, it does rather undermine the rest of your post.

    Also, I had a look at the “Wikipedia Loves Art” reference to the V&A in the other post of David’s. As far as I can see it, the WLA event involved people taking pictures in spaces where photos are normally allowed, and of exhibits unlikely to be damaged by flash photography. In contrast, the situation with the National Portrait Gallery is the wholesale scraping of over 3,000 professionally taken pictures. Hardly the direct comparison that David’s post appears to make.

  9. Well, I’m a British taxpayer and I’m delighted by all this.

    The idea that a public body — in practice this means the staff — owns the images seems horrible to me. Don’t we, the taxpayer, own the images? Except we’re not allowed to access them, unless some bureaucrat says so? Why, in heavens’ name?

    I’m not sure that your “Plausible good outcome” of PD in the US and copyright in the UK sounds like a good outcome for those of us in the UK! We have no control over the daft copyright law. Bodies like the British Library routinely abuse this law — or what it is supposed to be, for no-one has tested it in court as far as I know — to prevent access to copies of public-owned material, so that they can sell low-quality images at a high price.

    I note that the NPG has, in a huff, taken down its images. Why I can’t imagine. Thank heavens they’re on Wikipedia.

    My taxes paid for all this. How dare these small-souled bureaucrats try to run a racket using them?

    Now my best outcome is a court case. It’s high time this racket was tested in a court, and if Wikipedia would do it, it might well bust open the whole racket of keeping public-owned material away from the public. If it did not, the publicity that UK subjects are prevented from accessing their own property would probably have the same effect.

    I don’t know who your poster “Matt” is, but he sounds like a member of NPG staff, or friend thereof. I can’t imagine any normal member of the public taking the view that public property belongs… to the staff who run the institution!

  10. Richard, the NPG doesn’t own copyright on the original images, and you are able to go and view them, for free, the NPG takes care of the images, protecting, restoring them, keeping them in a safe environment, preventing them from leaving the country etc.

    They *did* make them available for anyone to view on the internet, not low quality images either, but high quality images, a feat which cost the taxpayer £1m. The images were then stolen. So your entire argument about them showing low-res copies and preventing viewing etc is a moot point, they did *exactly* that, but now to protect the public interest, they have been forced to remove them, thereby doing *exactly* what you suggest they shouldn’t do.

    The worst outcome of this is a court case, who do you think is going to pay for it? The tax payer, the tax payer will then (after the NPG wins) have to fund the NPG through the US courts to ensure the UK’s courts decision is upheld and the uploader coughs up the court costs (and I’d guess this would go to the highest courts, which means the loser in the case – the uploader if the copyright decision is upheld – will be liable for possibly hundreds of thousands of pounds in just court/lawyer costs).

    The British library will prevent access to books, some of the books the British library hold are actually priceless, and a recent case was of a respectable scholar going in and tearing pages out of priceless books causing untold damage to historical references, you really want anyone to be able to go and look at a 300 year old book, or would you rather tight controls?

    Also the high-quality images on the NPG website were available to view for free, they were not “low quality” and they were not “at a high price”. Yes you need to pay if you want a reproduction from the museum, but then there are costs involved. No you cannot wander into any museum and take home the art with you, even though its in public ownership.

    If the NPG did lose the court case though, do you think they would then submit all 16,000 high resolution images onto the internet, or would they swallow the £1m loss and put only low quality images on the internet? How many other establishments do you think would follow suit? Whilst there is a copyright law on the images, the NPG rightly believe their photographs to be protected by UK law, without this protection they really wouldn’t have any desire to put high quality images on the internet now, would they, and who would benefit from that?

  11. Nothing has been “stolen”. The NPG made copies of public domain portraits available to the public, as is its, job. A member of the public then took advantage of a small number of these copies, as was his right. The NPG then cried “you’ve taken our ball, we’re not playing any more”.

    As for the question of the high-resolution images that the NPG has now taken down from their website, they should be forced to restore them, with court action if necessary.

  12. As has been explained to you many times Physchim62, the images are subject to copyright under current UK legislation. You may not like that fact, you may not agree with that fact, but it is a fact none the less.

    “Copyright expert Struan Robertson of law firm Pinsett Masons told us it was a straightforward breach of copyright, but the US location of the infringer added a wrinkle. “The copyright owner has to enforce the order in the US. It’s possible to do, but it can be quite expensive,” he said.”

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/07/13/wikimedia_npg/

    Now, I don’t know if you are in the UK, and a solicitor and an expert in UK copyright law, having been to University here, studied law here, read all the legal journals here and basically make your living from being an expert in copyright law in the UK, if you are then I’m sure you can point me to the correct documentation on OPSI that points out that a 2D image is not copyrighted in the United Kingdom.

    We have so far a firm of legal experts in the UK giving legal notice, and notice of the applicable laws that apply in this case, we have a 3rd party copyright lawyer also saying that the images are copyright.

    Now, unless you are a copyright lawyer, all we have from you is your “opinion” on the subject, and your opinion differs from the opinion of legal experts in the area of UK copyright.

    3,000 is also not a small number, its what, around 20% of their collection of 16,000 images? How many would need to have been stolen for it to be a “significant” figure? 100%? The fact is, and the fact remains, the images under UK law are currently copyrighted, and the NPG should *not* restore the images as they will only be stolen and hosted on the WMF servers.

    So please, tell us all your legal credentials and how you come to the stunning conclusion (with facts please, links to relevant legislation from the OPSI – http://www.opsi.gov.uk/ – and not opinion).

    I have listed 2 sources of legal experts in the area saying “yes, the images are copyrighted), you’re obviously a fan of the wiki way of things, as such you’ll be familiar with the requirement for providing sources and facts rather than opinion, so I challenge you now, provide links to 100% definitive proof that under UK law 2D photography is not covered by copyright, and no, the US case does not apply in the UK.

  13. Roger – my name’s Matt White. I live in Surrey, and work for a computer hardware manufacturer in the Thames Valley. No connection to the National Portrait Gallery or any similar institution – nor do I know anyone who works for them. If you’re so inclined, googling “MattWPBS” will find you most forum posts and the like relating to myself. Feel free to pour through them if you still want to check further. Does that satisfy your accusations, and would you care to share your details as well?

    As David [Webb] has noted above – the National Portrait Gallery had these images freely available in high resolution on their website, and removed them following the scraping and unauthorised uploading to Wikimedia. The inability to view these, and the remainder of the collection that had been digitised, is purely a consequence of the actions (or lack of) of Mr Coetzee and the Wikimedia Foundation. This is not the National Portrait Gallery ‘removing them in a huff’, but taking a reasonable action in the face of systematic copyright infringement from an American Corporation. I believe that covers the ‘why’.

    The National Portrait Gallery has a responsibility to maximise its income, so that it requires as little support from all of us as possible. Bearing in mind that they are forecasting a loss of £625,000 over the three years till 2012, do you think it is prudent for them to allow photographs for which they hold copyright to be uploaded to Wikimedia? According to the accounts, the licensing income for the National Portrait Gallery came to nearly £400,000 in 2007-08.

  14. @ Physchim62

    Seeing as you appear to be online. Would you care to respond to the point about the National Portrait Gallery’s contact details actually being online and freely available? In fact, the staff list on the site flatly explains how to e-mail any of the 170-odd members of staff.

    Everything online seems to point that this legal letter has been the National Portrait Gallery’s final resort, rather than their first. It’s possible to find history of negotiations going back to 2006 regarding the usage of their images on the various Wiki sites.

    Also, I’m curious about your claim that they have restricted access in contradicting their ‘statutory duties’. One point is that the photographs are still available on the National Portrait Gallery’s site in lower resolutions. The second is that while the Board of Directors of the National Portrait Gallery have statutory duties under the Museums and Galleries Act 1992, I believe the Gallery itself does not. However, one of the Gallery’s strategic objectives is to maximise the financial resources of the Gallery. I struggle to see how this objective would be best met by wilfully ignoring the destruction of a £400,000 revenue stream…?

    Can I ask where you are checking your information as well? It seems that a number of your points are flatly contradicted in the time it takes to enter them into Google.

  15. @David Webb, Farrer & Co, solicitors to the NPG (and to several members of the Royal Family), admit that there is no clear precedent in English law for this situation: I’m not going to disagree with them! Wikipedia has never pretended that the remarks of Oliver J in Interlego v. Tyco Industries “”skill, labour or judgment merely in the process of copying cannot confer originality…” constitutes an English precedent – they were made obiter dictum in a Hong Kong case decided under the 1956 Act on distinct grounds – but they are persuasive, and were cited in Bridgeman v. Corel (as well as in any undergraduate textbook on IP law that you care to pick up).

    The NPG is acting like a bull running through the streets of Pamplona, except that it is shouting “this is copyright, this is copyright” instead of just snorting. It should not be surprised if, when it arrives at the plaza de toros, it finds a few picadors and matadors waiting for it.

  16. @David – I suspect WMF is actually thinking before responding, unlike the NPG.

    @All – I have the server logs. We’re about all that’s reading this far down. But don’t let me stop you adding comments to this thread.

  17. @ Mr Gerard – As it appears now, the uploader has enlisted the help of a lawyer from the EFF, the lawyer will work “pro bono” which would suggest that the uploader themselves are going to fight the case, which would take it out of the WMF’s hands wouldnt it?

    @Physchim62 – Farrer & Co state there has been no UK equivilent of the US case, and until such time as there is a case which decides it, then as Farrer & Co state “practicing lawyers and legal academics alike generally agree that under a UK law analysis the judgment in Bridgeman v. Corel is wrong and that copyright can subsist in a photograph of a painting.” So it’s nice to know you are agreeing the Farrer& Co on this subject.

    You are though, constantly pointing out Bridgeman v. Corel, forget that case 100%, it holds no sway under the UK system, so constantly pointing to the US case, where the legal community in the UK agree that the ruling under UK law wouldn’t even stand, doesn’t enhance your point of view, it detracts from it with a “can’t they find something else? is their only defence a US court case which the UK legal industry indicates wouldn’t stand in a UK court?”

    I read parts of the documentaion on OPSI last night, the WMF’s only stance is “it’s not copyright in the US”, the OPSI legislation points out that photographs are copyright, Farrer & Co point out which parts apply, Farrer & Co seem to have a checklist of things they need to point out.

    So, other than cases in other countries which do not apply, have you found any legislation in the UK which would counter-act the copyright legislation, or are you going to cling on to “Bridgeman v. Corel” as the only defence you have of your point of view?

  18. Also, in addition to the above post. Did (as I have asked several times) the images in question contain a digital watermark which the uploader removed? If that is the case, the matter is actually a criminal matter:

    “Electronic rights management information is any information provided by the copyright owner which identifies the work, the author or any other right holder, or information about the terms and conditions of use of the work, and any numbers or codes that represent such information. Any attempt to interfere with this data, remove it or retransmit a work without it will become a criminal offence. As in the case of technological measures, this new law gives museums, archives and libraries new powers to protect their digitised collections or other material they have produced in electronic form.” (2003 Copyright Regulations)

    http://www.museumscopyright.org.uk/bridge.htm

    A report on the effect of Bridgeman v. Corel:

    “Bridgeman -v- Corel is not binding in the UK and is of doubtful authority even in the USA. It has not influenced the way museums negotiate or license rights and there have been no serious attempts by commercial users to undermine the position of museums. ”

    I have wrote to my MP about this subject with my points of view, my MP will most likely discuss this with Ben Bradshaw and then send me a postal letter with the results. Hopefully this matter will be brought up in Parliament before it goes anywhere near the courts, so that the MP’s can clarify the legal position according to current legislation.

  19. @David Webb, I have no way of knowing for certain, but all the discussion I’ve seen suggests that the uploaded images didn’t have digital watermarks. The NPG didn’t mention the question of watermarking in the lawyers’ letter that was published, and the existence of watermarks was noted on a Wikimedia site about a month after Derrick Coetzee uploaded the disputed images. The latter, in particular, suggests that the NPG started watermarking as a response to the event.

    Not even the NPG have suggested (publicly) taking criminal proceedings, although it is possible that they had already discussed this with the Crown Prosecution Service and been told that they would never win before Hell froze over, hence the decision to go for the “civil” route. There is nothing illegal about removing a watermark from a digital image which would otherwise be public domain: the illegality arises from including it in the first place without a solid reason for doing so.

  20. I asked those questions on the wiki blog thing, you can find my post, word for word on this blog. I find interesting however this:

    David Webb Says: Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    July 17th, 2009 at 00:46

    Piotr Konieczny Says:
    July 17th, 2009 at 02:54

    David Gerard Says:
    July 17th, 2009 at 03:47

    Crosbie Fitch Says:
    July 17th, 2009 at 08:33

    Over 8 hours and 3 comments later, my entry is *still* awaiting moderation, whilst “pro wiki” comments are moderated and visible, doesn’t that strike you as “odd” in any form? Are the questions I asked too difficult to be posted on the wiki’s blog?

    The uploaders (I keep forgetting his name) talk page discusses the removal of watermarks and a batch downloading tool. I shall email the lawyers in this case and ask if the images contained a watermark, if they did and the lawyers were unaware of this, then there may be a case for a DCMA take down notice.

  21. Mr Webb,

    Your comments on the British Library are very apposite, if a little misconceived.

    The British Library has refused, solidly, for 10 years, to my certain knowledge, to digitise its collection of medieval manuscripts. It also refuses to allow almost anyone to access them. Since it is based in London, even people like myself who DO have clearance cannot in fact go there very often. I asked them to digitise 3 manuscripts, each of 100 pages. I could photograph them in a day. They are quite sturdy.

    They refused to do so. I offered to photograph them. They refused. They agreed to photograph them only if I paid them £8,000. That’s £20 per click of the camera. And they wouldn’t put them online then. They offered to allow ME to put them online, so long as I paid them £500 a year for the rest of my life.

    Yet the manuscripts have never been photographed at all! So, as you remark, some fool could go in and steal pages. But the BL view is better that, than that the images should appear on the web.

    Preservation means photography, and the creation of many copies of the images. To obstruct this is criminal.

    So why does the BL do this? Because they are making money by selling crude black-and-white (not even monochrome) images to scholars trying to make use of the texts at massive prices (hundreds of pounds).

    This seems to be the same motive as the NPG. Short-term greed, and the hell with the public interest.

  22. Matt,

    “As David [Webb] has noted above – the National Portrait Gallery had these images freely available in high resolution on their website, and removed them following the scraping and unauthorised uploading to Wikimedia. The inability to view these, and the remainder of the collection that had been digitised, is purely a consequence of the actions (or lack of) of Mr Coetzee and the Wikimedia Foundation. ”

    Please read what you just wrote. It sounds just like a mafia man. “We were prepared to negotiate for the return of the hostage. Now that you have told the police, we have no choice but to kill her, and it is purely your fault.”

    No, it isn’t.

  23. In case anyone starts getting the crazy idea that we are arguing for the liberation of poor, defenceless images, who done no-one no harm…

    We are arguing for the release of public property to the public, the publication of photographic images produced at great public expense. Moreover this publication must be without any form of legal, physical, or technical hindrance that will encumber the public in their use of these images.

    It is the public who must be free here. They have paid their money. They want their property, and they want to be free to enjoy it without paying a second and third time.

    For some mercenary reason the NPG is withholding the public’s property, or providing it only in dribs and drabs via a keyhole, in order to generate additional revenue for its own enrichment. If anything, that revenue has been illegitimately generated with money provided by the public for the release of those images, not for their retention. The public did not provide the money for the purposes of covering NPG’s expenses, but to provide the public with photographic access to its gallery – unstinting and unencumbered access.

    Will the NPG serve itself or the public?

  24. Since when should a GOVERNMENTAL entity be forced to try and turn a profit? Is this some dumb-ass Thatcher and/or “New Labour”-era piece of legislation designed of robbing the British public of their own property? Three-plus decades of conservative (small “C” as a good half of those years were under a party which pretends to be liberal) really have screwed Britons over. When we will you finally ditch your two fake parties and go with someone like the Lib Dems who haven’t bought into the who Thatcher/Reagan pile of lies?

  25. @mjkerpan – personally? When the Lib Dems don’t do the opposite of their policies when in power, e.g. the Lib Dem MEPs voting for software patents despite them being expressly against the party platform. I don’t think I’ll be forgiving them for that one until I see a believable explanation, how it won’t happen ever ever again and then a track record of it never ever happening again.

    But that’s probably not on topic for this post. I suspect the problems you describe are more to do with the nature of bureaucracies: self-preservation becomes the first goal.

  26. I really can’t understand the confusion here.

    The original paintings are not subject to copyright – the digitised images are.

    Similarly the works of mozart are not subject to copyright, recordings are. Hell even reproductions of the sheet music are.

    I fear wmf has done their reputation with other, similar institutions a lot of harm here. Harm that will go beyong the NPG

  27. @John – the confusion is that your second statement – “the digitised images are” – is actually quite possibly not the case. It’s unambiguously not the case in the US, and that was decided using lots of UK precedents.

  28. And it also quite possibly *is* Mr Gerard, that is the sticking point, isnt it? It was decided (Bridgeman v Corel) on US law though, not UK law, the 1st reading was appealed, the 2nd hearing was based only on US law with the judge making a comment.

  29. Precisely – anyone who blithely declares “it is” or “it isn’t” just doesn’t understand what a thorny issue this is. I declare it shouldn’t be, and you probably think it should be, but that’s quite different from “is”.

  30. Indeed, the dubious excuse often trotted out to sanction the granting of the monopoly known as copyright is that it encourages the publication of ORIGINAL works. Hence why copyright is not supposed to grant monopolies to the producers of unoriginal work.

    It is thus not the manual labour that copyright is supposed to reward, but the production and delivery of new creative works (to the public).

    Unfortunately, what most overlook is the greater loss of cultural liberty that copyright inflicts upon the people, all to line the pockets of the publishing industry, with lip service that it’s in the cause of cultural enrichment. That’s the biggest con of all. So, it’s quite understandable that the NPG seeks not to deliver art to the public, but to profit from an unethical monopoly over its reproduction.

  31. Actually Crosbie, the NPG is quite clear on one thing:

    The National Portrait Gallery’s website is here for your enjoyment. You may:

    ?access, download and/or print contents for non-commercial research and private study purposes

    That to me sounds like, I can download every image on their website for private use, that sounds to me that they are delivering art to the public, does it not? If they had said “you may not download…” then that would be denying the public.

    All they ask is if you wish to use the images for any other purpose (non private use) you obtain permission/a licence. That seems reasonable and fair to me, as it includes all their works, including works where the artist is still alive.

  32. David, why must the public be denied their liberty to share and build upon their cultural heritage?

    Moreover, that includes their liberty to exchange their labour in doing so in a free market. Why must commerce be removed from the individual artist? We should seek to enable their reward, not prohibit it.

    Why on earth is an organisation supposedly acting in the public interest so set upon ‘letting the public look but not touch’, and only in private?

    Once could expect a corporation such as Disney to take pains to enclose our culture (myths, legends, and folklore), but surely not an organisation tasked with protecting our cultural birthright rather than profiting from it?

    I think you’ll find that copyright as a matter of principle only ever sounds reasonable to those who also hope one day to similarly profit from the suspension of their fellows’ cultural liberty. It’s a seductive corruption that has also infected institutions tasked with the sharing of human knowledge, i.e. universities.

    When did you first fall prey to the notion that for man to progress he must be prevented from sharing and building upon the art and knowledge of his fellows?

  33. Reproductions of the sheet music of Mozart are only copyright if they are new editions. Anyone is allowed to publish a new edition, so long as it’s not just a copy of an existing edition. The NPG images are just copies, so unprotected by copyright.

  34. Crosbie, I’m all for freedom of choice, freedom to choose. I choose (for instance) to use Microsoft Windows, when I could just use Linux and avoid *all* proprietary code. I choose to use Internet Explorer, when I could use open source alternatives.

    When I do use Linux, I choose to use Opera rather than Firefox.

    You cannot get anymore “open” than Linux, so we’ll use it in an analogy. If Linus Torvalds was asked to remove someone elses code from the Linux kernel, he would, even though he has no obligation to. Even if the other person had submitted that code, and the code was licened as Open Source, he would remove the code.

    If someone in the US were to point out to him in Finland that some of the code in the kernel was under copyright, would he remove the code from the kernel, or would he say “well, its not under copyright in Finland so we’ll keep it in”. A guess is, he would remove it, just like he removed open source code even though he had no legal obligation to.

    There are 26 million people in the UK who pay income tax (apparently). Each and every single one of them would have to face a bill on their income tax of 2p each, just to cover the NPG, that doesn’t include the other galleries either, who knows how much extra taxation would be needed to cover the costs.

    For man to progress, a man must know that his works are protected, the NPG allows anyone in the world to download and view their image, if you see one you like and want someone else to see, you can point them to the image on the website, and share it like that. You can even print it out and show it to your friends! This is a vital resource that should (and is, contrary to Physchim62’s opinion) be protected.

    Without the protection, I could download all 16,000 images from the NPG, and stand outside the gallery selling a book of high quality images of every print in the archive.

    This however doesn’t look like it is going to court, which means that the case has not been tested and copyright law does still apply in the UK. Until such a time as it is heard in the UK courts, that is the truth of the matter. It could easily be argued that if the WMF felt that they would win, they would have held firm, at the end of the case they would have been awarded costs (if they had won). It could also be argued that the NPG could have held firm, but by getting into discussion they are avoiding a court case, and by avoiding the court case the law as it is stands, and as copyright experts in the UK have stated, the images are copyrighted.

    @Physchim62 – I assume you are a UK copyright lawyer, it has been pointed out why the images are copyrighted with links to the legal documentation. Are you going to back up your continued assertion that the images are public domain with proof? As pointed out repeatedly, Bridgeman v Corel holds *no* legal water in the UK, so you cannot use that as “evidence”, so please, enlighten us all with how you can be 100% certain of your conviction.

  35. I’m disturbed by Wikipedia’s assumption of moral high ground that it has no natural right to own. I’m a UK taxpayer and would like to see the NPG recoup my tax money through commercial sales to customers willing to pay to use the images, and I resent Wikipedia disrupting that perfectly innocuous state of affairs. And NPG does have more rights to the images than anyone else. Who else pays to house the original artworks? Who else pays to maintain and restore them, and display them, and guard them, and insure them? It all comes at a cost. I don’t see Wikipedia or its apologists clamouring to pay any of those bills.

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