Sygma, purchased by Bill Gates' wholly owned and privately held company Corbis back in 1999, has filed for bankruptcy protection according to a report in the French press here (via Thoughts of a Bohemian, 5/21/10), with tax debts of approximately 73 million euros.
As Paul Melcher at Thoughts of a Bohemian wisely surmises, French laws are remarkably more pro photographer than if this were a case in the U.S., and further, whatever court would take on this case could also be affected by anti-American/anti-big-business sentiments.
With a pro-photographer leaning in French law, Sygma was found liable for the loss of photographer Dominique Aubert's images, with a judgement of 1,500,000 euros. Following this, property and assets owned by Sygma were seized, and the game was essentially over.
Likely many of the Sygma photographers, with digital assets already in Corbis' asset system, will migrate to Corbis proper. In the end, as someone who knew of Sygma and worked alongside their photographers in it's heyday, it is sad to see the name disappear from the bylines, but, well, business is business, and so it goes.
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