The supreme court in Sweden has said that a Wikimedia website that documents public works of art violates Swedish copyright laws.
The ruling came after the ‘Visual Copyright Society’ in Sweden sued Wikimedia Sweden for giving away free access to photographs of public works of art hosted on its website.
The sticking point according to the ruling is the fact that the online database did not gain consent from the artists before doing so.
While the supreme court of Sweden said that individuals such as tourist were of course allowed to take photographs of public artwork, the act of then using those images in a database for unlimited use was “an entirely different” affair.
“Such a database can be assumed to have a commercial value that is not insignificant,” the court said in a statement….”The court finds that the artists are entitled to that value.”
The Swedish supreme court also took the opportunity to enhance its country’s popularity as a tourist destination by warning potential visitors that that tourists taking selfies in front of famous landmarks and them sharing them online, could find themselves in court and judged for having violated copyright laws.
The original case was brought in June 2014 by the Swedish lobby group representing artists in copyright matters, Bildkonst Upphovsrätt i Sverige (BUS).
The Wikimedia Foundation stated that the judgment was rooted in outdated laws and also eroded “the freedom of panorama that is a fundamental part of freedom of expression, freedom of information, and artistic expression.”
Wikimedia Sverige have made no announcement as to whether they will appeal against the supreme court decision.
The court case has been derided in some circles because many of the listed artworks on the Wikimedia database were originally funded and commissioned using public funds in the first place, and are all situated in open areas for people to visit and access free of charge.