British National Portrait Gallery Faces Wikipedia In Battle Over Paintings

Wikipedia has rebuffed the British National Portrait Gallery over allegations that Wikimedia's system administrator, Derrick Coetzee, might have infringed British copyright laws by uploading more than 3,000 photos of famous portraits from the gallery to the popular knowledge website.

An Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) lawyer, Fred Von Lohmann, will be representing Coetzee and will use the argument that the creators of the portraits themselves have been deceased in some cases for centuries and therefore, Copyright no longer applies.

The deputy director of the Wikimedia foundation, Erik Moeller, has stepped in the debate in a clear post on the organisation's blog. He said that both sides should be partners and not adversaries and that "It is hard to see a plausible argument that excluding public domain content from a free, non-profit encyclopaedia serves any public interest whatsoever".

However, the case seems to hinge on the photographs of the paintings rather than the paintings themselves. But then, Moeller pointed out that two other European entities donated more than 350,000 copyrighted images to be used on Wikipedia and its affiliated sites.

The National Portrait Gallery rejected claims that it was only making a few thousands pounds from licensing the content on the web. The institution, which is partly funded by the government, reckons that it makes around £340,000 by licensing its images to books and magazine publishers.

Allowing Wikipedia to publish its photos online could cause havoc to "its ability to fund its digitisation process from its own resources".

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It also seems that Coetzee, according to The Register, has been stripped of its administrator priviledges which appears to be contradictory. Some might say that Arts isn't free and that galleries are having a hard time enough trying to boost the number of visitors coming in and contributing to their running.

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