National Portrait Gallery sends lawyers after Wikipedia

The London gallery has called in its lawyers after a Wikipedia user took high-res images from its site and uploaded them to the encyclopedia.

Wikipedia logo

The National Portrait Gallery has called in the lawyers after a Wikipedia user uploaded over 3,000 of its high-res photographs to the online encyclopaedia.

A spokeswoman for the gallery told IT PRO that it had contacted Wikipedia regarding the issue, but is yet to receive a response, leaving it "obliged to issue a lawyer's letter."

The letter was sent to user Dcoetzee, who in the spirit of Wikipedia posted it on the site for discussion.

In a statement, the National Portrait Gallery said it has spent 1 million to digitise its collection over the past five years, making 60,000 images of the portraits it houses available. It charges for downloads of high-resolution images, to help offset the cost of photography and conservation.

The Wikipedia user was accused in the lawyer's letter of "circumventing" security measures put in place to protect high-res images from being downloaded for free, and taking over 3,000 in March of this year.

"The gallery supports Wikipedia in its aim of making knowledge widely available and we would be happy for the site to use our low-resolution images, sufficient for most forms of public access, subject to safeguards," the statement from the gallery said.

But, as the legal notice said: "However, to date, the Wikimedia Foundation has ignored our client's attempts to negotiate this issue, preferring instead to take a more harsh approach that one would expect of a corporate entity."

The Wikimedia Foundation had not responded to request for comment at the time of publishing.

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