National Portrait Gallery Fail

Wikimedia Foundation’s statement, correcting a few details that The Guardian and The Register have got wrong –

Dave Gerard’s comments, useful for economic context –

The BBC, quoting Gerard –

To re-iterate a point I’ve made in the comments on this blog, the NPG is wrong both ethically and economically. They are a state-funded institution that exists to enable the public to access portraits of notable individuals, and that mission would be better served by collaborating with free culture institutions than by trying to *prevent* the public accessing portraits of notable individuals in order to monetize bogus rights.

That the NPG have spent a million pounds that they will have to make back by employing a bureaucracy whose expense is barely covered by the licencing fees that “investment” generates is not an argument against the fact that they are wrong to be claiming to enclose the public domain.

If I have put a lock on your house and I’m demanding money before I let you in, the amount of effort I’ve spent on fitting the lock isn’t the most salient point in the discussion…


British commentators shouldn’t be dismissive of Bridgeman vs. Corel, which was decided with explicit reference to English law.

[UPDATE 2, 20.25/2009-7-19] –

I’d like to see the NPG admit they cannot hold copyright on the images, and WMF not help the NPG in any rightswashing. WMF can reduce the costs of producing and distributing images and metadata for the NPG and help increase the value of access to the NPG itself. It’s in both institutions interests to do so.

Posted in Free Culture