Thursday, July 16, 2009

Bridgeman Two?

The Guardian reports that London's National Portrait Gallery "has threatened legal proceedings" against a US resident "who downloaded thousands of high-resolution images from its website, and placed them in an archive of free-to-use images on Wikipedia." As Sergio Muñoz Sarmiento points out, this is Bridgeman v. Corel redux -- to what extent are photographic reproductions of public domain works protected by copyright? It's worth noting that Bridgeman was initially decided under UK law; and even in the final ruling, Judge Kaplan wrote:

"Finally, the amicus argues that this result is contraindicated because public art collections in the United Kingdom charge fees for reproductions of photographic images of works in their collections, thus evidencing their view that the images are protected by copyright. But the issue here is not the position of an economically interested constituency on an issue that has not been litigated, at least in this century, but the content of the originality requirement of the British Copyright Act. … For all of the foregoing reasons, the Court is persuaded that its original conclusion that Bridgeman's transparencies are not copyrightable under British law was correct."