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Wikipedia Threatened for Putting National Portrait Gallery Pictures Online

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but is it worth a lawsuit? Wikipedia administrator Derrick Coetzee is about to find out. As reported by paidContent, the National Portrait Gallery in London sent Coetzee a legal notice demanding that he remove more than 3,000 photographs from Wikipedia that Coetzee had downloaded from the Gallery's database. Prior to sending a legal notice, the Gallery had asked Wikipedia to take down the photos, without success. Now, Coetzee is being represented by Fred von Lohmann of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The dispute raises several interesting legal questions. As the paidContent post describes:

Whilst the creators of the portraits themselves (and, therefore, the owners of their copyright) are long deceased, the case concerns the gallery’s photographs of the paintings, which it argues have separate and active copyright. One might argue that's a disingenuous logic - though the original paintings are, to all intents, now in the public domain, by virtue of hanging in a gallery, the government-funded gallery’s claim works against the notion that they should equally be in the public domain in the digital world. It’s that which Coetzee and von Lohmann are likely to argue.

To make the case even more interesting, even though Coetzee is located in the United States, the Gallery asserts in its letter that U.K. courts have jurisdiction, because the servers are located in the U.K. (and technically, the downloading took place there) and the Wikipedia pages are aimed at U.K. users. If the matter moves forward in U.K. courts, Coetzee may finally have a chance to see the images he downloaded firsthand.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on July 16, 2009 at 04:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)


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