Thomas Dreier (Karlsruhe): Regulating the Gaze – Normative picture rules and visual images


One of the ways in which law and the arts interact is the effects of images and the attempts that have been made to regulate them through law. On the one hand, these attempts reflect the ambivalent consciousness that images are nothing yet but are capable of much, as expressed throughout history from the aniconism under Moses to current day requirements to present images of cancer on cigarette packages. On the other hand, there is the issue of the rivalry between image and speech, along with their mutual linkages in form of reading images or visualizing texts.

Legislature and jurisprudence have developed a voluminous system of norms that considers the most varied points of view concerning analog pictures (standards of proof, copyright/moral rights, privacy protection, surveillance) that can be considered a historically grown corpus. Due to the technology neutrality of most legal norms, these are largely applied without variation to digital images. This raises the question to what extent the law does justice to the profound changes. These issues will be discussed in particular with regard to commands to look at pictures – rather than with regard to prohibitions to look at pictures.

Curriculum Vitae

Legal scholar Thomas Dreier obtained his doctorate degree in law from LMU Munich, where he also pursued studies in art history (under Hans Belting, among others). In 2000, he completed his habilitation at LMU Munich with a treatise on “Kompensation und Prävention. Rechtsfolgen unerlaubter Handlungen im Bürgerlichen, Immaterialgüter- und Wettbewerbsrecht” (“Compensation and Prevention. Legal consequences of impermissible actions in Private, Intellectual Property and Competition Law“). Since the winter semester 1999/2000, Thomas Dreier is Professor for Private Law and legal issues in the information society at the University of Karlsruhe (now: Karlsruhe Institute for Technology, KIT) and since 2001 simultaneously honorary professor and member of the faculty of law at the University of Freiburg. Since October 2014, he is Fellow at the Käte Hamburger Center for Advanced Study in the Humanities “Law as Culture”.

This biographical and academic background fruitfully reunites two divergent discourses: image theory and the practice of legal-normative regulation.