Here’s a compelling case of self-interest presented as public interest reported by the BBC. The National Portrait Gallery in the UK makes £339,000 a year from the rights to high resolution images from their collection being reproduced in other media. The gallery claims it has invested £1m in the digitizing effort.
A volunteer for Wikipedia used software to extract high-resolution images from the NPG’s site that are not meant to be downloadable. When confronted, Wikipedia clothes itself in the public interest.
The NPG is threatening legal action after 3,300 images from its website were uploaded to Wikipedia. The high-resolution images were uploaded by Wikipedia volunteer Derrick Coetzee.
Now Erik Moeller, the deputy director of the Wikimedia Foundation which runs the online encyclopaedia, has laid out the organisation’s stance in a blog post.
He said most observers would think the two sides should be “allies not adversaries” and that museums and other cultural institutions should not pursue extra revenue at the expense of limiting public access to their material.
“It is hard to see a plausible argument that excluding public domain content from a free, non-profit encyclopaedia serves any public interest whatsoever,” he wrote.
He points out that two German photographic archives donated 350,000 copyrighted images for use on Wikipedia, and other institutions in the United States and the UK have seen benefits in making material available for use. […]
The National Portrait Gallery now says it only sent a legal letter to Derrick Coetzee after the Wikimedia Foundation failed to respond to requests to discuss the issue. But it says contact has now been made and remains hopeful that a dialogue will be possible.
A spokeswoman also said that the two German archives mentioned in Erik Moeller’s blog had in fact supplied medium resolution images to Wikipedia, and insisted that the National Portrait Gallery had been willing to offer similar material to Wikipedia.
Wikipedia Painting Row Escalates (BBC News)