Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by Bridgeman Art Library

  Bridgeman Art Library—Submission to Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee inquiry into new media and the creative industries

  The Bridgeman Art Library, established for nearly 35 years and employing some 55 people across its four international offices, is the world's leading source of fine art, history and culture with some 250,000 images available on-line, plus 750,000 historical photographs, from over eight thousand locations. We maintain and develop a commercial picture library representing museums, galleries and artists throughout the world by providing a central source of fine art for image users. We also develop educational resource packages, publish art catalogues, offer copyright advice, licenses reproduction rights and provide sales services. The Bridgeman Art Library has a long history of feeding monies back into museums, of figures up to £1.5 million per year.

  The Bridgeman Art Library has considerable expertise in digitising art and we have a long history of collaboration with museums digitising their collections. The Library works with over 2,000 stakeholders world-wide, including 150 museums in the UK enabling them to digitise their collections and create the most comprehensive coverage of digitised cultural heritage in the UK. The collections include images of design antiques, maps, architecture, furniture, glass, ceramics, anthropological artefacts and many others. We have contributed to the European digitisation process by submitting a proposal to the eContentplus programme designed to improve accessibility and usability of digital material.

  The Bridgeman Art Library welcomes the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee's inquiry into creative industries and would like to make the following specific comments which we hope will be taken into consideration when the Committee makes recommendations to the Government.

1.  Impact of digital convergence on the Bridgeman Art Library

  The Bridgeman Art Library continually works to find new markets within the creative industries by re-aggregating and promoting its images in different ways. For instance, we have created an educational history of medicine and science from 5,000 images for delivery via electronic distributors and have produced booklets on different aspects of the collection showing the diversity of the range available—female and feminist subjects, gay culture, vintage posters, sport and design and different religions among others.

  Secondly, we have developed Bridgeman Education as an innovative online educational subscription service primarily aimed at educational publishers, academic tutors and their students. It is designed to stimulate and boost e-learning and offers a unique and flexible way to search over 8,000 locations covering the world's major museums, art collections and historical sites with access to these digitised artworks on the internet.

  Thirdly, the Bridgeman Art Library now represents some 500 artists for copyright clearance—some copyright is also handled on behalf of museums where artists have assigned to them the copyright of their works which are owned by the respective museum. We are now able to offer them opportunities to promote their name and to generate funds from reproductions as a result of new technology.

  Digital convergence has enabled us to (i) obtain greater exposure via the web and email, (ii) enhance sales of reproductions via marketing on the web and the digital metadata accompanying each image and rich academic and commercial key wording and (iii) exploit new markets such as sales of prints, screen savers for mobile telephones and computers and other joint ventures.


Users' expectations—speed

  The digital age has raised expectations in terms of delivery. As a small private self-funding company we have had to change the way we respond to the demands and change our working practices to meet today's needs. In the analogue world, clients were happy to wait for a request to be serviced or would visit our offices to make their own selections. Now however, they expect a turnaround of a matter of hours and often work at odd hours from home or whilst travelling. This puts a strain on our IT resources and web hosting services which must now be 24/7/365. We often have to work fast to turn around a digital scan and whilst it is assumed that users can download on the spot or work with standard file sizes it is not always the case. The process can never be fully automated—many require more information prior to use or need images rescanned for various purposes. Furthermore complications can occur with different operating systems, monitors, expectations of colour and tone in an image and its fit to the creative professional.

Users' expectations—profitability

  Transition to the digital age has cost the picture library industry world wide a very considerable investment which it continues to pay for as technology moves forward and this affects profitability. This can put pressure on the attainment of high standards and the ability to develop further. There is a tendency to think that because digital content can be reached at the touch of a button that it comes free and whilst this is clearly not true, it puts pressure on the prices that one can command. It has also resulted in the closure of a number of the smaller archives which do not have the financial backing for this kind of investment.

  Along with this is the cost of tracking uses of images in the digital age—even where those uses are legitimate (unauthorised uses are discussed below). Within a typical library management system it is important that every image delivered is followed up to see if it has been reproduced or not—for various reasons this is more complex than in the analogue world and the Bridgeman Art Library has had to adapt and introduce new systems to cope with this.

Users' expectations—specialist knowledge

  Along with this there is a tendency to think that limited expertise is required in sourcing good rich data for creative projects be they books, newspaper articles, multi-national advertising campaigns, research papers or gift products. Our experience shows that this is not so. There is still a need for the creative's special eye and researcher's in-depth knowledge of subject matter and the rights associated with it in order to exploit and disseminate the material accurately and fully. The plethora of data and imagery now available needs intelligent and creative mining and a thorough knowledge of copyright law.

2(a)  The effects of unauthorised reproduction and dissemination


  The Bridgeman Art Library has had to make considerable investments to protect the archives against unauthorised use and dissemination. For example the Bridgeman Art Library annotates digital images or optical discs with caption tracking information. The real work, however, comes in following up infringements and this requires extra resources and is extremely onerous and time consuming.

  In the analogue world, for The Bridgeman Art Library this meant visiting trade fairs and book shops and browsing newspapers daily to seek out infringements and check up on usages of content. This analogue world still exists. In the digital world it means searching the internet (pages for which no login is required) for images. The Bridgeman Art Library has been testing a new service which provides reports of its images used on the internet and this has proved interesting and useful in assisting us in tracking where images appear and what is legitimate. However, the development of this type of technological solution requires additional investment and must be further developed to keep up with technological advancements.

  Arts images are particularly onerous to track as a number of photographers took advantage of museums before they prohibited outside photography, hence there may be a number of copyright owners of the photographs of the same image in circulation at any one time. The onus is on the Library to prove that the museum image for which it is claiming payment was sourced from its archive rather than anyone else's.

  As can be seen from the above, the costs of tracking unauthorised use can be very open ended. However, the Bridgeman Art Library estimates that it takes approximately two members of full time staff plus at least Euros 50,000 per annum for internet tracking services, plus legal fees as and when necessary.

2(b)  Protecting against unauthorised reproduction and/or dissemination


  Encryption software products already exist for digital images. However, they are not permanent or foolproof and can be removed by Photoshop and other programmes. Bridgeman therefore do not use encryption software at present, but we support the idea of encrypting digital images so that images can be traced, should a foolproof system be found. The same goes for visible watermarking. We would welcome a common standard for watermarking software and permanent image number recognition but the latter is of no value unless every image producer adheres to the system. As regards the former, the Bridgeman Art Library and a major French library are testing a new system which they believe may be sufficiently foolproof as to warrant investment in the future as a standard.

  As regards universal and permanent image identifiers, the Bridgeman Art Library and fellow libraries within the industry undertook a series of discussions with the Stationery Office (TSO) with respect to the Digital Object Identifiers (DOI) universal imaging standard. However, talks were finally abandoned until such time as a universal agreement could take place as to how everyone could participate in this scheme. Many other unsuccessful attempts have been made in this area in the hope of replicating the ISBN and ISSN coding system.

  Companies licensing material should have good DRM systems in place so that they can ensure that licences and images are managed and monitored appropriately.


  The Bridgeman Art Library would welcome the development of a code of conduct to discourage infringements from taking place. We think that the industry should take an active part in the fight against unauthorised use and dissemination of copyrighted content by adhering to collectively agreed standards and procedures for fighting piracy.

  We believe the image industry (which collaborates world wide via conferences, workshops, literature and other discussion groups) should not be overlooked in favour of solutions which solely focus on the needs of the music and performing arts industries. The visual arts have always been regarded as the poor relation of the music and performing arts since the profits they can generate is considerably less. Visual arts, however, remain a very effective method to widen access to cultural heritage and to broaden the knowledge of cultural history. Ideally, the Government should be able to give added support to the visual arts to compensate for this.


  We believe that there should be a central helpline for copyright information which is fully publicised to the creative industries and indeed can provide information, clarification, education (see point c below) and prevention of IP crime. This central service should assist users who have inadvertently infringed copyright to help them negotiate a suitable settlement with the creator. The Bridgeman Art Library has much experience of this and seeks funding to develop further a service which would form an extension of our existing facility. Bridgeman has also had experience of dealing with infringements, for instance in the famous test case in New York City Bridgeman vs Corel[25] and through BAPLA, has a representation on the British Copyright Council.

  An information service would also assist with the case handling orphan works (see below). This information service would advise on the appropriate measures to obtain a legitimate licence for reproduction and copyright.


  It is vital to avoid infringements wherever possible in the first place and the way forward is to exercise the proper controls when licensing copyrighted materials as well as educating users about copyright:

    (a)  Making information available

    The Bridgeman Art Library has produced factual information about copyright and has been educating its clients in the creative industries to this effect for over 30 years. However, we still find many people are ill informed about clearing rights and the reasons why they have to pay. We believe copyright should be part of the curriculum in schools and at universities as well as in colleges and associations of appropriate industries—such as the advertising, film and publishing industries.

    The Bridgeman Art Library currently seeks funding to use their knowledge and experience to enhance data and awareness and facilitate the further use of our cultural heritage.

    (b)  Different types of copyrights

    The Bridgeman Art Library manages two levels of copyright—reproduction rights on behalf of museums and creator's rights on behalf of museums and artists. There is much confusion about the differences between these rights and we assume this must be the case for other industries where more than one type of right applies. We believe there should be more education about this and the differences made explicit.

    (c)  Different Territories

    Even within the European Union where attempts at harmonisation of copyright law have taken place the position as regards various types of copyright is diverse thanks to the fact that national law still applies. Photography of architecture is just one example. For example, the electricity installation in the Eiffel Tower is copyrighted so a copyright fee is payable when the Eiffel Tower is photographed after dark when the lights are in use. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the United States provides another singular example of a copyrighted building of which not every photographer would be aware. Communicating such information is important and due to case law, its interpretation changes from time to time.

3.  The extent to which a regulatory environment should be applied to creative content accessed using non-traditional media platforms

    (a)  The digital environment is relatively new and continually evolving. We believe there is a case for careful monitoring of cases of piracy and abuse of IP rights.

    (b)  Closer collaboration with search engine and internet service providers would be beneficial so that we work together to fight IP crime.

    (c)  Regulations governing display, user/reproduction and attempts to suppress encryption information already exist and these need to be enforced and communicated to a wider audience. Making infringement of IP rights a criminal act and imposing serious damages will be a greater deterrent.

4.  Where the balance should lie between the rights of creators and the expectations of consumers in the context of the BBC's Creative Archive and other developments.

  Creators must continue to have the right of veto in any reproduction of their works and this is something reinforced by the WIPO treaty Creative Commons and European laws. To facilitate the use of art by the creative industries, artists should be as easy as possible to reach and communicate with, so their views can be heard. It is of benefit to artists that there is greater access to (and potential income from) reproductions of their work but not all artists desire this.

  The BBC Creative Archive is an innovative way of giving back the content which has effectively been paid for by public funds. As such we feel this is a worth while initiative. Furthermore if more production of material by educational specialists means more creativity and a greater number of projects and stimuli in the film production areas, then this would hopefully create more of a market for commercial imagery from traditional sources.

  However, it is important to remember that not all organisations are not for profit and organisations such as Bridgeman who are self-funding and who create wealth for the community cannot afford to give away rights. Furthermore there is a danger with initiatives such as Creative Commons and the BBC Creative Archive that copyright boundaries become blurred. What follows are assumptions as to what educational use is—or other acceptable non-commercial use is and these can impinge on what are already some dangerously grey areas. It is also worth remembering that traditional educational publishing as exemplified by such UK publishers as Longmans and Macmillan was always one of the most lucrative publishing areas, and the potential of the new digital area has not changed this because the need remains constant.

  One final point—the addition of content from the general public sector whilst very interesting also serves to blur rights and could incur a minefield of legal problems which will inevitably bring the lowest common denominator to the quality of content which currently exists.

  In short, with good encryption methods (should they be found), formalised standards, image recognition, and clearly defined rights—not to mention better education about copyright, the greater exposure of material could be a positive move.

15 February 2006

25   Bridgeman Art Library v Corel Corp., 36 F.Supp.2d 191 (S.D.N.Y. 1999): It was a decision by the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, which ruled that exact photographic copies of public domain images could not be protected by copyright because the copies lack originality. Even if accurate reproductions require a great deal of skill, experience and effort, the key element for copyrightability under US law is that copyrighted material must show sufficient originality. This judgment would almost certainly have been reversed in an European Court of Law and we are looking for a similar test case in the UK or Europe to fight which would strengthen our position. Back

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