According to an article in the French press, the subsidiary of Corbis, Sygma, has just filed for bankrupcy protection.
“I am unable to pay my creditors,” said Stefan Biberfeld, director of Sygma, which was founded in 1973 and was purchased in 1999 by the American company Corbis, owned by Bill Gates personally.
The reason (something we wrote about here a while back) : Sygma was found guilty of losing original images of photographer Dominique Aubert and fined 1.5 million Euros ( about $2 million Dollars) . The company had then its property, equipment and bank account seized by the French Justice.
Apparently a bankruptcy would not work as any buyer would also be faced with the same fines and possibly more brought forth by other photographers .
“Our tax debts have risen to 73 millions in the last 10 years and we have lost 2 millions Euros just in 1999” continues the manager. 29 full time employees currently working at Sygma risk losing their jobs and the destiny of millions of images is unknown. Corbis had just recently spend a huge amount of money to relocate the Sygma in a safe and climate controlled facility just outside of Paris.
Obviously, Corbis has decided not to protect it’s company and decided, probably after crushing numbers, that it was no longer worth it. While it won a judgment against Chris Usher for losing thousands of his negatives and paying back a ridiculous $7 per image,it couldn’t do anything against the French legislation that is more pro photographer (and certainly more against big American businesses)
More on the fate of Sygma will be known at next Tuesday’s hearing.