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photo series

 Ines Schaber
«Culture is our Business»

In 1989, Bill Gates, CEO of Microsoft, founded the firm of Corbis. Today this company owns one of the world’s largest image archives, made possible through the purchasing of larger photo-archives containing historically important photographs (among others, the Bettmann Collection). In 1999, the archive’s material resources – over 70 million photographs – were moved from New York City to an unused limestone shaft in Pennsylvania. Roughly ten percent of the collection was converted to a digital format – inscribed with a watermark – and posted on the firm’s website. Following the sale of a photograph, the watermark was removed and the image consequently made freely accessible. Many of these historic photographs, however, have long been publicly accessible by international law. But according to the WIPO Agreement of 1996, which oversees how digital information is handled: only in this way can the Corbis images exist under copyright today, since the embedded watermark is protected by copyright law. Referring to these interrelations, Ines Schaber exposes the potentially threatening, monopolistic-capitalistic appropriating of pictorial memory.