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Gates Firm Acquires Rights To Ansel Adams’ Photo Images

April 2, 1996

NEW YORK (AP) _ Corbis Corp., the digital images company owned by software billionaire Bill Gates, on Tuesday obtained rights to the work of Ansel Adams, including some of the most striking and well-known photographs of the American wilderness.

The company intends to develop a CD-ROM computer program using hundreds of Adams’ photographs, which are now maintained by the Ansel Adams Trust. And it will add the photographs to its electronic archive, from which publishers and individuals can buy images.

``The goal is to try to take Ansel’s work into the 21st Century,″ said Bill Turnage, managing trustee of the Ansel Adams Trust. ``Like many artists, he wanted to be immortal and he knew in the 21st Century, that was going to mean electronic images.″

About 9 million books, posters and calenders based on Adams’ photos have been sold. His most popular are luminous black-and-white images of the West. Adams died in 1984 at age 82.

Corbis will have to push the boundaries of image scanning and reproduction techniques to duplicate the quality of Adams’ work. His prints were often large with very high resolution, making them a challenge for conventional scanners.

Adams paid as much attention to the way his images were reproduced as he did to shooting them, Turnage said.

``We don’t want to substitute our judgment for Ansel’s,″ he said. But he added, ``It’s very exciting to work on things that are at the limits of technology.″

The deal continues an impressive string of additions to Corbis’ inventory of images. Last October, it bought The Bettmann Archive, one of the largest photo collections, including decades of photographs from United Press International. In November, Corbis obtained rights to several thousand works of art from the Hermitage, the renowned museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Specific terms of the Adams Trust deal were not disclosed, but Corbis will have exclusive rights to distribute Adams’ photos electronically for 20 years. It is the first time Corbis has made an exclusive arrangement, said Doug Rowan, chief executive of the company.

Turnage said he asked for the exclusive deal, noting the Adams Trust works with only one print publisher as well. He approached Corbis about an arrangement after seeing a CD-ROM program the company had produced about the Barnes Collection of impressionist paintings.

The company showed him advanced electronic techniques to protect the copyright of Adams’ work, Turnage said.

Gates, co-founder and chairman of Microsoft Corp., started Corbis in 1989 to create new uses and markets for digital images. The private company buys and sells photos via computer and produces CD-ROM programs for consumers.

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