Sweden's supreme court has sided with commercial copyright concerns and ruled that the non-profit internet giant Wikimedia breaches Sweden's copyright laws by publishing photos of public artworks.
Wikimedia is the group behind the free online encyclopaedia Wikipedia. It has created a vast online knowledge repository by allowing members of the public to group-edit entries and upload pictures to its pages for educational purposes.
The disgraceful judgement is a victory for the Visual Copyright Society in Sweden (Bildupphovsrätt i Sverige - BUS), which sued Wikimedia at Stockholm District Court for publishing photos of Swedish public sculptures and other public artworks
without first getting permission from the artists.
In its judgement the supreme court affirmed that Swedish copyright law does permit members of the public to take pictures of public artworks. But, the court said:
It is different when it's a database where artworks are made available to the public to an unlimited extent without copyright-holders receiving any remuneration. A database of this kind can be deemed to have a commercial value that is not inconsiderable.
Wikimedia's Swedish operations manager Anna Troberg told The Local:
We are naturally very disappointed. We view this as an anachronistic and restrictive interpretation of copyright laws. It also runs counter to recommendations from the European Court of Human Rights.
Troberg said the group would now consult its lawyer and its parent foundation in the United States before deciding what action to take.