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
- The Trial Court found that a
photograph could be denied copyright for a lack of originality, if it amount to nothing more than
- 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.