Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Corbis and the Public Domain

Tanya Asim Cooper, University of Alabama School of Law, has published Corbis & Copyright?: Is Bill Gates Trying to Corner the Market on Public Domain Art? in volume 16 of the Intellectual Property Law Bulletin (2011). Here is the abstract.

Art has the power to stir our emotions, evoke a physical response, and transport us to a different world. It can inspire and transform us. For all of those precious qualities, the public relies upon knowing that once the artist’s exclusive rights to the artwork elapse, the “art must ultimately belong to us all.” The notion that artwork eventually belongs to the public is paramount because art, like books and music, represents a collective experience that helps define what it means to be human. Thus, once the artist has enjoyed her exclusive rights to that art, it should belong to no one individual, but to everyone. This article argues that Corbis’s copyright claim in its digitized reproductions of public domain art is suspect and concludes by discussing the ramifications for the public domain when Corbis asserts copyright protection for its public domain digital copies. Given the power and influence that Bill Gates and his company Corbis have on the market for public domain art, it behooves the public to be aware of this issue.

Download the article from SSRN at the link.

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