Image licensing firm Corbis has sold a major bulk of its photo stock, including historical images of the 1989 student protests in Tiananmen Square, to a Chinese company.
Corbis, founded and owned by billionaire Bill Gates, sold millions of its photos and videos to Visual China Group, including files from the Tiananmen protests, CNN reported.
Meanwhile, VCG entered into a separate partnership with Getty Images, putting the photo agency in charge of preserving and distributing the photographs outside of China, the news network said.
The Corbis deal raised concerns about how the historical photos will be handled by the Chinese firm.
China is known for its tight control over publications and other media. References to the Tiananmen protests have been banned in the country.
“What if VCG, being the new owner of those images that used to belong to Corbis, should one day decide that certain images [such as those depicting the Tiananmen protests] are not appropriate to be licensed or sold to anyone in the world?” Christoph Rehage, a visual artist and author, asked CNN Money in an email.
A Corbis spokesman said the company “carefully considered the future stewardship of the images”, adding that photos and videos of the protests were captured by other news agencies, too.
In a statement, Corbis said selling the company’s large image archive will help it transition into an advertising agency focused on placing products in movies, TV and online.
The transaction “strengthens our dominant position in China’s image industry”, VCG chief executive Jun Liang said.
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