An Artist Used Screenshots From a Video Feed to Document Italy’s Deserted Streets. Now the Webcam Company Responsible Is Demanding Payment

The company is seeking €2,100 after Radisic used 40 of its images.

Tourists arrive at an empty and closed St. Peter's Square due to the Vatican authority decision of today to close the Square to the all visitors on March 09, 2020 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

When the world went on lockdown, Milan Radisic, an aerial photographer who has shot in 250 locations across Europe, found himself at home in Hungary, trapped indoors like many other people around the world.

To keep himself occupied, he undertook a project publishing images of once-bustling Italian tourist destinations such as St. Mark’s Square in Venice, now eerily devoid of people.

Because he could not travel, he took his pictures from publicly accessible webcam feeds maintained by SkylineWebcams. After converting them to grayscale, he posted the pictures on his Behance profile and on Bored Panda.

That’s when SkylineWebcams came knocking, accusing Radisic of using their pictures without authorization.

“Please proceed in removing the content as soon as possible,” a company representative wrote to Radisic in an email obtained by Artnet News. The other option was to license the images for €2,100.

“I was shocked,” Radisic recalled. He says he already paid to access the images by signing up for the company’s premium service for €2.95 ($3.20) a month.

“At that moment, it was so important to share with the world what happened in Italy,” he added. Stressing that he wasn’t making any money from the project, he asked the representative to approve his use of the images for free.

But the representative denied the request, and warned Radisic that unless the photos were removed, “you will most likely be contacted by our legal department.” When Radisic subsequently offered €200 ($215), he was again rebuffed. “I am sympathetic, unfortunately there isn’t much that I can do,” the company representative wrote. “I’m tied by company policy.”

Representatives from SkylineWebcams did not respond to Artnet News’s request for comment.

Radisic took the photos down at first, but he has since made them available again. Now he’s planning on turning all 40 into a giant collage to be auctioned off to benefit a hospital in Bergamo, the city at the center of Italy’s outbreak

“To be honest, from the business side, this series was a huge promotion for the webcam provider,” he told Artnet News, joking that “they might even have to pay for the collaboration.”

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