Decision from the Swedish Supreme Court on communication of photographs of public works of art from databases
The Swedish Supreme Court has in a decision on 4 April 2016 ruled whether a communication to the public from an open database of photographs of public works of art is permissible without the copyright holders’ consent.
The case concerns a dispute between the Visual Copyright Society in Sweden (BUS) – represented by Sandart & Partners – and Wikimedia Sweden. Wikimedia Sweden had from an open database on the internet, communicated photographs of works of art, permanently situated outdoors on, or at, a public place.
In the decision the Supreme Court held that a communication to the public from an open database can be assumed to have a commercial value that is not insignificant. The communication from Wikimedia Sweden’s database was also considered to unjustifiably encroach on the copyright holders’ legitimate interests. Based on rules in the Swedish Copyright Act, the Supreme Court thus concluded that Wikimedia Sweden had no right to exploit the public works of art from its database without the copyright holders’ consent.