Sunday, July 26, 2009

Drawing up battle lines – art gallery takes on Wikipedia

From The Independant, Andrew Johnson

The appearance of some of the world's most famous portraits on a website could create a legal landmark

In her coronation robes, Elizabeth I looks formidable and stately – the Virgin Queen in her pomp, an image to propel rivals into battle. Some 400 years after her portrait was painted, that is precisely what she has done.

Hers is one of more than 3,000 images from the National Portrait Gallery uploaded onto the free internet encyclopedia Wikipedia in April by Seattle-based Derrick Coetzee. The gallery, founded in 1856, responded last week by threatening legal proceedings against the PhD student.

That action unleashed outrage in cyberspace and quickly led to a stand-off between the proponents of free information and cultural institutions wanting to protect one of their few revenue streams – licence fees for reproducing images of their artworks. The row also goes to the heart of an internet revolution which does not recognise borders or national laws.

The gallery has instructed the law firm Farrer and Co, which represents the Queen, to sue Mr Coetzee unless the pictures are removed. They claim that letters to Wikipedia were unanswered. While the portraits are long out of copyright, the photographs are not and, the gallery argues, the digitisation process to create high resolution images has cost it around £1m. They are, they say, therefore entitled to a licence fee.

For many MYARTSPACE artists, their concern of their work showing up on commercial products and other sites without their permission (and without them getting compensated) is a valid concern.

You can read this article by clicking over to the New York Times HERE.

1 comment:

Ben Gage said...

Hi, nice article. I read high art: intention, street art: instinct-ion.
" Pieces": instinctual intention. I suppose it's always about the audience the artist is trying to attract. Still, you mention cave art, perhaps the audience needs to do their own difficult work in dark and inhospitable places to find "it."