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German Museum Wins Copyright Lawsuit Against Visitor Who Uploaded Photos to Wikipedia

Mannheim’s Reiss-Engelhorn Museen won its lawsuit against a visitor’s unauthorized online publication of photographs of the museum’s exhibition pieces, reports |älde-fotos-wikipedia|Monopol|. On Tuesday, Stuttgart’s regional court confirmed the announcement made by the Berlin law firm MMR, who represented the plaintiff.

The visitor, whose name was not disclosed, photographed objects including antique vases and coins, and subsequently made the pictures available on Wikipedia’s online repository of free-use images, sound, and other media files, called Wikimedia. He furthermore scanned photographs of art objects that the museum had commissioned for its own publications. As Wikipedia uses the Creative Commons License, the photographs became available for free commercial use—which led the museum to file suit.

According to the court’s ruling, only the museum has the right to decide who publishes pictures of their exhibited objects online: The museum owns the property rights, and the works are by artists that cannot claim copyright themselves. However, the decision is not yet legally binding. This is the second time that a court has decided in favor of the museum. A Berlin regional court was the first, earlier this year.

In a post-judgment statement, Alfried Wieczorek, the museum’s general director, said, “We don’t have anything against Wikipedia. But it is for us to decide which images are approved for publication, and which can be used for commercial use, such as merchandising.”