Wikimedia Sweden art map 'violated copyright'

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A woman films a statue of Swedish inventor of dynamite Alfred NobelImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Swedish landmarks were featured on Offentlig konst

A website documenting public artworks in Sweden violated copyright laws, the country's supreme court has ruled.

Visitors to the Offentlig Konst site could browse a map detailing public sculptures, statues and paintings.

But the Visual Copyright Society in Sweden (Bus) sued Wikimedia Sweden, the site's owners, for providing free access to a database of art photographs without the artists' consent.

Wikimedia Sweden said it was greatly disappointed by the ruling.

Image caption,
The site showcased public art on a map

The non-profit organisation, set up to support and promote Wikimedia projects such as Wikipedia in Sweden, has a collection of royalty-free photographs that it says can be used by the public.

But the supreme court said that while individuals were allowed to take photographs of public artwork, providing those images in a database for unlimited use was "an entirely different matter".

"Such a database can be assumed to have a commercial value that is not insignificant," the court said in a statement.

"The court finds that the artists are entitled to that value."

Wikimedia Sweden said the decision showed that the country's copyright laws were "lagging behind the times" and not adequate for the "digital reality we all live in today".

It warned that tourists taking selfies in front of famous landmarks and sharing them online could be judged to have violated copyright laws.

Jim Killock, executive director of the UK-based Open Rights Group, said: "Freedom of panorama is essential for ordinary photographers in the digital age."

"You cannot possibly know if a building or public artwork is within copyright term. Banning such photos risks making copyright farcical and will bring it into disrepute.

"Just as importantly, these laws need to be consistent across the EU."

The amount of damages Wikimedia Sweden must pay Bus will be decided by a Stockholm district court at a later date.