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Wikipedia At Odds With British National Portrait Gallery Over Copyrighted Snaps

A Wikipedia contributor who uploaded several images of the portraits from the British National Portrait Gallery (NPG) in London has reportedly been slapped with a legal notice by the museum.

The user has been charged with downloading several high-resolution copyrighted images from the museum’s website, and subsequently making them available for the online encyclopaedia.

However, the Gallery notified that it had contacted Wikimedia Foundation way back in April about the matter and has had no positive response from the Foundation. So, it has decided to take legal action against the encyclopaedia’s volunteer updater Derrick Coetzee.

In its legal notice, the Gallery asked the updater to pull out the images and paintings from the website by 20 July, or else legal action will be taken against him.

The NPG’s lawyers Farrer & Co. wrote to Coetzee: “By posting the images to the Wikipedia website you are expressly authorising users to themselves make further copies of those images on their own screens and hard drives in the manner permitted by the GNU Free Documentation License”.

However, at first glance the case is apparently exerting pressure on Coetzee, but it’s not as clear cut as it seems to be, this is because of the different laws in the UK and the US. While the user resides in the UK, the NPG is based in the UK.

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Our Comments

Interesting legal case that will surely attract some attention, especially given that the BNPG is supported both by the government and by individuals, trusts and foundations. Since many of those portraits have been donated and apparently are in the public domain, it is likely to start a legal battle between the two parties and may set a nasty precedence.

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Désiré Athow
Désiré Athow

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.