Getty Images in Legal Battle Over Michaelangelo’s David


It’s one of the most famous sculptures in the world and it’s also at the heart of a dispute between the Italian Ministry of Culture and Getty Images, one of the world’s largest photo archives.

Statue of David
Statue of David. Photo by Will Pantaleo

What’s the crux of the argument here? An Italian law that protects the country’s cultural heritage.

But it goes beyond that.

There’s another law that delineates how museums and other cultural institutions are to be compensated when culturally significant works like Michaelangelo’s David are involved.

Essentially, the law states that companies selling reproductions, photographs, and other products that use these protected cultural works owe the caretakers of these treasures some kind of indemnity.

One example cited by PetaPixel also uses Michaelangelo’s David and its interpretation via a GQ Italia cover featuring Pietro Boselli. Do the same dynamics apply to Getty Images? It’s hard to tell and, of course, Getty thinks they are in the right here. At its most basic, however, is whether or not Getty Images makes money off of these pictures which also seems to be the catalyst for triggering these cultural protection laws in Italy in the first place.

Many on the Internet are somewhat perplexed by the whole situation, questioning whether or not the Italian government is trying to enforce copyright on something that is over 600 years old. Whether or not that is the case, the ever-broadening field of interpretation when it comes to photographer’s rights to monetize their work is still at play here. And once the law gets involved in these things, you can never tell which way the wind is going to blow.

Any thoughts you might have on the Italian Ministry of Culture’s action to remove Michaelangelo’s David from Getty Images is welcome in the comments.

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About Author

Kehl is our staff photography news writer since 2017 and has over a decade of experience in online media and publishing and you can get to know him better here and follow him on Insta.

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