Conference on copyright law in the visual arts puts Bridgeman v Corel back in the spotlight

  • Leading UK art and law experts revisit controversial copyright case
  • Unanimous vote offers new verdict on Bridgeman v Corel case
  • Raises critical questions around copyright in the internet age

London - 21 May, 2007 - The Bridgeman Art Library, a leading international fine art image database library, joined forces with the British Association of Picture Libraries and Agencies (BAPLA) and the Centre for Commercial Law Studies in London to host a seminal conference on the issue of copyright in the visual arts. The event, which gathered together experts in IP, art and copyright law, took place at the Centre for Commercial Studies, Queen Mary University of London, attracting an audience of arts professionals, IP lawyers, photographers and media. Although it held no legal jurisdiction, the majority audience vote at the end of the event, as well as the ruling of the presiding judge, Richard Edwards, decided in favour of The Bridgeman Art Library - contrary to the original ruling.

Bridgeman v Corel (1999) saw The Bridgeman Art Library take legal action against the Corel Corporation over pirated use of Bridgeman images. In a decision which shocked the art-world, the New York Southern District Court ruled that 'a slavish recreation of a work of art lacks originality and is therefore uncovered by copyright'. Copyright and intellectual property are critical areas for artists across all media, especially the visual arts, performance arts, music and photography. In a current high profile case, Viacom is starting proceedings against YouTube over alleged illegal showing of copyrighted material.

"The court's decision came as a surprise and, for many in the art world, an outrage," said Harriet Bridgeman, managing director of The Bridgeman Art Library. "We felt it important to revisit the original case because we are frequently contacted by professionals and academics interested in it - law students, IP professionals and photographers. It's a case that simply will not lie down. Copyright is an increasingly contentious issue due to the freedom of access created by the internet, and the success of this event shows just how relevant cases such as this are."

Marybeth Peters, the United States Register of Copyrights and winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Los Angeles Copyright Society, was the keynote speaker at the conference and commented: "I thought the conference was terrific - one of the best I've attended in the last 10 years." Joining Marybeth on the speaker’s podium was an array of experts and professionals from the worlds of media law, intellectual property and the creative industries. Included in the line-up were Professors Adrian Sterling and Thomas Dreier, international specialists in copyright law; Claudia Andrieu, legal representative for the Picasso Administration; and Dominique Green and Nick Galvin, respectively the managing director and head archivist for Magnum Photos UK.

Organised jointly by The Bridgeman Art Library, The British Association for Picture Libraries and Agencies (BAPLA), and the Centre for Commercial Studies, Queen Mary, University of London, all those involved were satisfied that the mock re-trial had been both fairly presented and fairly judged. "The case both in favour of Bridgeman and against Bridgeman was debated strongly," said Dr Uma Suthersanen, co-organiser, lecturer at Queen Mary and presenting the case against Bridgeman. "This ruling will continue to be debated but I think that the general reaction at this conference was clear: as Professor Sterling said, copyright is a discipline of respect, and the majority want that respect recognised."

Notes to editors:

  • For an accurate and fair version of the Bridgeman v Corel case, pertinent to UK organisations, visit the Museums Copyright Group website:
  • To view an image of  Lady Bridgeman, MD of The Bridgeman Art Library, please click here
  • Full speaker list for Bridgeman v Corel: copyrighted creativity or commerce?: -
  • Claudia Andrieu (Picasso administration lawyer)
  • Philip de Bay (specialist Fine Art photographer)
  • Harriet Bridgeman (Managing Director of The Bridgeman Art Library)
  • Professor Thomas Dreier (Director, Institute for Information Law, University of Karlsruhe, Germany)
  • Richard Edwards (Barrister, 5 Verulam Buildings, specialist in media, creative and copyright law)
  • Dr. Theodore Feder (President, Art Resource)
  • Nick Galvin (Archive Director, Magnum Photos)
  • Dominique Green (Managing Director, Magnum Photos)
  • Christina Michalos (barrister and specialist in media and entertainment law; author of The Law of Photography and Digital Images)
  • Marybeth Peters (United States Register of Copyrights)
  • Linda Royles (CEO of BAPLA and Director of the Digital Content Forum)
  • Professor Adrian Sterling (Vice President of the British Copyright Council, Professorial  
  • Fellow, Queen Mary Intellectual Property Research Institute, University of London, and author of World Copyright Law)
  • Dr. Uma Suthersanen (Chair, British Literary and Artistic Copyright Association, and Chair, Legal Board, Creative Commons (England & Wales)

About Bridgeman Art Library:
The Bridgeman Art Library represents museums, art collections and artists throughout the world by providing a central source of fine art for image users. Founded in 1972, the Bridgeman Art Library works with museums, art galleries and artists to make the best art available for reproduction. The result is an outstanding archive of images drawn from collections throughout the world, all of which are available for licensing. For further information please visit

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