The Bridgeman Art Library, Ltd. v. Corel Corp.
36 F. Supp.2d 191 (S.D.N.Y. 1999)

  • Bridgeman marketed reproductions of art owned by some museums. They sold digital images of the art on CD.
    • The art was in the public domain and not protected by copyright.
  • Corel started selling their own CDs of famous art, containing some of Bridgeman's digital images. Bridgeman sued for copyright infringement.
    • Corel argued that the paintings in question were public domain, and Bridgeman couldn't get a copyright on an exact digital copy of a public domain painting.
    • Bridgeman pointed to Alfred Bell & Co. v. Catalda Fine Arts, Inc. (191 F.2d 99 (2d Cir. 1951)), which held that reproductions of public domain images can be awarded copyright protection.
  • The Trial Court found for Corel.
    • The Trial Court found that a photograph could be denied copyright for a lack of originality, if it amount to nothing more than "slavish copying."
      • Bridgeman admitted that they were attempting to make the digital images as identical to the original paintings as possible.
    • The Court found that there must be a distinguishable variation to render the reproduction original, and just producing a copy in a different medium did not constitute a distinguishable variation.
  • If this case had gone the other way, someone could indefinitely extend their copyright by simply taking exact photos of their paintings over and over again.