Curiously, lawyers have a history of decisions on art and even the art of photography.

Whether photography is art may not ultimately be settled to universal satisfaction of every redneck or art aficionado but it has been decided in a court of law; and a very long time ago too.

1861 in France saw photographers Mayer and Pierson bring a copyright action against the photographic duo of Betbeder and Schwabbe. The ruckus was over pirated pictures of Lord Palmerston. Mayer and Pierson claimed copyright protection under the French copyright laws of 1793 and 1810. The catch was that those laws protected only works of art so the court's decision hinged on whether photography was art.

Mayer and Pierson lost! Photography apparently was not art according to the judgement of 9 January 1862.

Mayer and Pierson appealed the decision on 10 April 1862. Their lawyer, a Monsieur M.Marie, gave an eloquent defence of the art of photography using many of the ideas often raised in
threads on APUG. The court reversed its previous decision and declared on 4 July 1862 that photography was art.

The battle was not over. Later in 1862 a group of famous painters including Ingres petitioned against the decision. The arguments they used bear a striking resemblance to the anti-art-photography sentiments occasionally echoed in APUG too.

Finally on 28 November 1862 the French court threw out the painters' petition and photography has enjoyed secure status as art ever since; at least in France it has.

An unexpected outcome was that photography was admitted to the prestigious French Salon of Arts along with all the famous traditional paintings and sculptures. On the other hand the Impressionist painters, Monet, Sisley, Pissarro, et al were definitely too outre to be let in the door!