Wikipedia slapped with National Portrait Gallery copyright order

National Portrait Gallery at loggerheads with Wikimedia
National Portrait Gallery at loggerheads with Wikimedia

A volunteer for the Wikimedia Foundation has been given a copyright infringement notice by the National Portrait Gallery, regarding images of paintings uploaded to Wikipedia.

As with most of Wikimedia's doings, the notice has been made public for all to see, and it makes for wince-inducing reading.

Essentially, the notice is addressed to Wikimedia volunteer contributer Derrick Coetzee and asks for all images of paintings that are in the National Portrait Gallery be taken off of Wikipedia by 20 July or further action will be taken.

Unsurprisingly, Coetzee is consulting his lawyer about what to do next, but if the images are taken down it will be a blow for the not-for-profit Wikipedia.

While at first glance it may look like Coetzee will have to bow to the pressure of the NPG, the case may not be so clear-cut, due to differing laws in the UK and US. While The National Portrait Gallery is UK-based, Coetzee resides in the US.

This has prompted a lawyer to tell The Register: "The copyright owner has to enforce the order in the US. It's possible to do, but it can be quite expensive."

Most unfortunate

A blogger interested in the Wikimedia Foundation, David Gerard, has written about the situation, explaining:

"It's most unfortunate that the National Portrait Gallery considers this in any way sensible behaviour, considering how well we've been going with museum partnerships for Wikipedia Loves Art - the V&A were fantastically helpful and lovely people, who realise that spreading their name and exhibits far and wide is much more likely to get them money and fame than claims of copyright over works hundreds of years old."

He also notes: "I can't see this ending well for the National Portrait Gallery, whatever happens."

The National Portrait Gallery has responded to this story. Read its response here.

This story has been updated

Via Wikimedia

Marc Chacksfield

Marc Chacksfield is the Editor In Chief, at DC Thomson. He started out life as a movie writer for numerous (now defunct) magazines and soon found himself online - editing a gaggle of gadget sites, including TechRadar, Digital Camera World and Tom's Guide UK. At Shortlist you'll find him mostly writing about movies and tech, so no change there then.