Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 15, No. 186.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
Date: Tue, 21 Aug 2001 08:55:33 +0100
From: Nicholas Finke <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: 15.160 image copyright: implications for us?
As someone who used to teach US Copyright law, the decision in Bridgeman
seems correct and straightforward. It simply states that there can be no
copyright where there is no originality. Since someone who creates a copy
of a manuscript page for scholarly use is specifically trying not to add
anything to the original, but merely to reproduce it as faithfully as
possible, copyright will not apply.
This does not mean that there is no protection available. The holder of a
manuscript can physically control access so that copies are made only with
its permission. In addition, a holder can reinforce this physical control
by requiring those who are granted access for the purpose of copying to sign
a contract where the rights of the copier in any images are severely
In this situation the law applied is contract law, not copyright law, and
the restrictions applied are not subject, for example, to copyright concepts
such as fair use/fair dealing. This approach is only prospective, it will
not get the horses back in the barn if reproductions have already been made,
but as a rule for future cases, it can be quite effective.
As a frequent user of copyrighted material I am not happy with being given
access only under conditions where I have to sign away my fair use rights,
but I can certainly see the other side of this particular coin as well.
On 8/4/01 3:04 AM, Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty
<email@example.com>) at firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
> Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 15, No. 160.
> Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
> Date: Sat, 04 Aug 2001 08:02:09 +0100
> From: "David L. Gants" <email@example.com>
>>> From: Barbara Bordalejo <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> Dear colleagues,
> I wonder if anyone has looked at the implications for us of the
> copyright case brought by the Bridgeman Art Library against Corel in
> 1998, and decided against Bridgeman in 1999? The effect of this case
> seems to be that from now on there is no copyright in medieval
> manuscript images of any kind (digital, printed, etc.). For example, I
> could take the images of the Ellesmere color facsimile and digitize them
> and publish them anywhere I like, and no one could stop me.
> Corel had used images of paintings in the BAL, and the BAL sued. There
> was a first ruling in which the judge said that under United States law
> photographs which represent faithfully a two-dimensional object cannot
> be subject to copyright because they lack artistic or creative elements.
> Moreover, in the appeal the court was asked to consider the state of
> British law, on the grounds (apparently) that the objects might be
> copyrightable under British law. The court rejected this argument too:
> it was of the opinion that copyright law in Britain as well as the US
> would also not protect these images.
> You can read about the case at
> I would really appreciate your opinions on this issue. It seems to me
> that this ruling has the potential to change completely the state of
> play between scholars who want to use manuscript images, publishers who
> want to distribute them, and the librarians who hold the manuscripts.
This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Tue Aug 21 2001 - 04:07:32 EDT