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SI Web and New Media Strategy 2009 - 2014
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Web Strategy Process (2009)
Deliverables, Success, Risks
Technology & Ops
Curation & Research
Smithsonian Commons Prototype
Smithsonian Commons Prototype
Public comments (2010)
Experience Brief - Attributes
Story 1: Museum Visitor
Story 2: Teacher/Family
Story 3: Millennial
Story 4: Citizen Scientist/Enthusiast
Addendum: The Smithsonian Commons Will...
Note: This is an official Smithsonian Institution website, but it is hosted by Wikispaces.
Public Domain and Image Sales References
References and Quotes regarding Public Domain and Image Sales and Licensing Activities in Museums
Developed for general reference
NEW - - Added "Code of Best Practices for Fair Use in the Visual Arts" (
We've used a slightly non-standard citation style for clarity
The excerpts were added so readers could get the flavor of multiple references without having to chase them all down
1. Allen, Paul, Why We Chose 'Open Science'
Why We Chose 'Open Science': To accelerate research breakthroughs on brain diseases, the Allen Institute puts all its data online for use without fees, Wall Street Journal, November 30, 2011.
On open science
: A crucial aspect to this project—and others the Allen Institute has pursued over the last eight years—is an "open science" research model. Early on, we considered charging commercial users for access to our online data. From a strictly financial standpoint, it made sense to reap front-end fees and, down the line, intellectual property royalties. The revenue could cover the high costs of maintenance and development to keep the resource current and useful.
But our mission was to spark breakthroughs, and we didn't want to exclude underfunded neuroscientists who just might be the ones to make the next leap. And so we made all of our data free, with no registration required. The Institute would have no gatekeeper.
On speeding the rate of discovery
: Most important, we generate data for the purpose of sharing it. Since opening shop in 2003, we've had 23 public releases, or about three per year. We don't wait to analyze our raw data and publish in the literature. We pour it onto the public website as soon as it passes our quality control checks. Our goal is to speed others' discoveries as much as to springboard our own future research.
On foundations and private funders
: What I've concluded is that foundations and other private funders who support scientific research also can help promote wider sharing of scientific data. Before funders write a check to a university, they should ask about the researcher's policies and track record on sharing.
2. The Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities.
On open access and knowledge dissemination
: Our mission of disseminating knowledge is only half complete if the information is not made widely and readily available to society. New possibilities of knowledge dissemination not only through the classical form but also and increasingly through the open access paradigm via the Internet have to be supported.
3. Boyle, James, The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind, Yale University Press, 2008.
(link to Google Books)
On the role public domain in society
: Our markets, our democracy, our science, our traditions of free speech, and our art all depend more heavily on a public domain of freely available material than they do on the informational material that is covered by property rights. The public domain is not some gummy residue left behind when all the good stuff has been covered by property law. The public domain is the place where we quarry the building blocks of our culture. It is, in fact, the majority of our culture. (p. 40)
On the Internet, museums, and open content
: The most satisfying proofs are existence proofs. A platypus is an existence proof that mammals can lay eggs. The Internet is an existence proof of the remarkable information processing power of a decentralized network of hobbyists, amateurs, universities, businesses, volunteer groups, professionals, and retired experts and who knows what else. It is a network that produces useful information and services. Frequently, it does so at no cost to the user and without anyone guiding it. Imagine that energy, that decentralized and idiosyncratically dispersed pattern of interests, turned loose on the cultural artifacts fo the twentieth century. Then imagine it coupled to the efforts of the great state archives and private museums who themselves would be free to do the same thing... (p. 13)
On controlling ideas by restricting access
: Instead of having ministries of art that define the appropriate culture to be produced this year, or turning the entire path of national innovation over to the government, intellectual property policy decentralizes the choices about what creative and innovative paths to pursue while retaining the possibility that people will actually get paid for their innovation and creative expression. (p. 5)
On public attitudes about intellectual property
: Finally, as more and more people can create and distribute digital culture, they are less likely to understand, believe in, or accept rules that are strongly at variance with their aesthetic and moral assumptions. (p. 156)
4. Brown, Melissa A. and Crews, Kenneth D.,
Control of Museum Art Images: The Reach and Limits of Copyright and Licensing
(January 20, 2010)
Prepared with support from the Kress Foundation. Available at:
On the effects of using terms and conditions to control use
: Whether or not they explicitly claim copyright over art images, museum site terms and conditions thus operate as a means of controlling whether and how online images can be used. Often, these terms and conditions will mean that an online image is not truly available for many purposes, including publication in the context of research or simple enjoyment. Not only do these terms and conditions restrict uses, they also have dubious legal standing. (p. 3)
On the effects of using licenses to control access and use
: Beyond substantively restricting how images can be used, license agreements also make the process of obtaining and using art images more complicated, time consuming, and costly for permission seekers. Restricting uses of images sometimes contradicts larger principles of art and law. Most art is to some extent derivative, and new creativity is commonly based on existing works. To prohibit cropping, distortion, and other experimentation with an image may actually hinder the development of art. Further, license terms that assert rights can undercut the public domain of copyright law. Copyright law has a limited reach, and materials enter the public domain for the public benefit. License restrictions can undermine the policy of copyright law by asserting limitations over the use of public domain materials. (p. 5)
On the conflict between access-control and mission
: In recent years, the use of licensing terms and conditions to control access to and use of art images has been subject to increasing criticism, primarily when considering restrictions imposed on works that are in the public domain. While digitization and internet technologies provide the capability of developing extensive, broadly accessible online art image databases at relatively low cost, copyright and licensing restrictions operate as a significant hindrance on the development of an art "commons" that could do much to engage the public with its artistic and cultural heritage. The overall missions of libraries and museums would seem to undoubtedly support placing high quality images of public domain art “back into the public domain, unfettered and unrestricted for all." (p. 18)
5. Europeana White Paper No. 2,
The Problem of the Yellow Milkmaid: A Business Model Perspective on Open Metadata
Authors: Harry Verwayen, Martijn Arnoldus, Peter B. Kaufman, 2011
On open access and controlling re-use
During a survey the Rijksmuseum discovered that there were over 10,000 copies of [Vermeer's The Milkmaid] on the internet—mostly poor, yellowish reproductions. As a result of all of these low-quality copies on the web, according to the Rijksmuseum, “people simply didn’t believe the postcards in our museum shop were showing the original painting. This was the trigger for us to put high-resolution images of the original work with open metadata on the web ourselves. Opening up our data is our best defense against the ‘yellow Milkmaid’.”
On the risks and benefits of open access
: Overall we can conclude that there is a strong conviction among cultural heritage professionals that the benefits of open sharing and open distribution will outweigh the risks. In most cases the advantages of increased visibility and relevance will be reaped in the short term. In other cases, for example where there is a risk of loss of income, the advantages will come in the longer run and short-term fixes will have to be found. All of this requires a collective change of mindset, courage to take some necessary risks and a strong willingness to invest in the future of the society we serve and participate in. (p. 20)
On the business model for open access:
Yale established this new policy in 2011 notwithstanding a vigorous licensing and publishing programme associated with its image collections. Arguments concerning the opportunity cost of open access (giving away potential revenues, for example) are based less on specific examples than on hypothetical opportunities - “the magic app” - that frankly never materialize. The university has found that those publishing partners and licensors who want to resell Yale cultural heritage content generally are interested in reselling Yale’s brand - the university’s name, logo, and other trademarks - and that brand remains under strict licensing provisions.24 Open access policies and licensing programs can coexist well especially when the brand is key to a licensing programme. Indeed, Bellinger reports numerous inquiries into commercial licenses that have appeared in the wake of the publicity generated by Yale’s open access declaration. (p. 23)
On financial and mission-based outcomes
: But in the digital age, with evidence that use and re-use can increase knowledge when it is openly linked across the entire web, the new view is that data funded by the taxpayer should have the broadest possible distribution. In addition, executives at the Museum reportedly believe that many of the significant commercial activities of the institution through its British Museum Company division could be enhanced through greater exposure online. (p. 24)
Public Domain Charter
On the public domain and memory institutions
: Entrusted with the preservation of our shared knowledge and culture, not-for-profit memory organizations should take upon themselves a special role in the effective labeling and preserving of Public Domain works. As part of this role they need to ensure that works in the Public Domain are accessible to all of society, by making them available as widely as possible. It is important for memory organizations to recognize that as the guardians of our shared culture and knowledge they play a central role in enabling the creativity of citizens and providing the raw materials for contemporary culture, science, innovation and economic growth.
(Note: see also
20. Europeana - - CC-0 Release of 20 million records
at the bottom of the page.)
7. Hamma, Ken,
Public Domain Art in an Age of Easier Mechanical Reproducibility
D-Lib Magazine, November 2005, Volume 11 Number 11
On museums erecting barriers to public domain content
: Art museums and many other collecting institutions in this country hold a trove of public-domain works of art. These are works whose age precludes continued protection under copyright law. The works are the result of and evidence for human creativity over thousands of years, an activity museums celebrate by their very existence. For reasons that seem too frequently unexamined, many museums erect barriers that contribute to keeping quality images of public domain works out of the hands of the general public, of educators, and of the general milieu of creativity. In restricting access, art museums effectively take a stand against the creativity they otherwise celebrate. This conflict arises as a result of the widely accepted practice of asserting rights in the images that the museums make of the public domain works of art in their collections.
V&A Images: Image Licensing at a Cultural Heritage Institution
On profit and loss
The tension between V&A Images’ revenue-generating and mission-focused goals is also reflected in the fact that, unlike VAE’s other units, it frequently has difficulty covering its direct operational costs, much less generating profit for the museum. Research suggests that this is characteristic of many museum image licensing programs…In 2007–2008, direct costs for V&A Images, as reported in the V&A Strategic Plan, ran to £405,000. This figure falls short of reported revenues by £57,000.
On counting costs
It is important to note that most of the costs associated with the creation of the high-quality digital images licensed by V&A Images – both the digitization of photographs from the image archive and the creation of a significant number of new photographs – are covered by other museum units.
9. JISC, V
&A Images: Scaling Back to Refocus on Revenue Case Study Update
On changes in the image sales market
: ‘The commercial market for “stills” has undergone a revolution, with consumers now expecting images free of charge, free of usage restrictions, and instantly available for use ... In summary, more people want more content, from more complex sources and at more speed, but are less prepared to pay for it and less sympathetic to the real, nondigital, human resource required to deliver it.’ (p. 3, quoting V&A Enterprises Director Jo Prosser)
On disbanding V&A Images
: Despite efforts to identify new sources of revenue for the unit, in April 2011, after about eight years of operation as a commercial unit, V&A Images as such ceased to exist. "[Andrea Stern, VAI’s Director of Digital Sales and Development] and I agreed that we had tried everything’, said Prosser. 'The picture library days were over.'"
(p. 4, quoting V&A Enterprises Director Jo Prosser. The article notes that V&A Enterprises continues to run an image licensing business, but that it is too early to tell whether those operations will be profitable.)
10. Lessig, Lawrence,
The Future of Ideas: The Fate of the Commons in a Connected World
Random House, New York. 2001
On the public domain and the advance of art and science
: Intellectual property law assures authors the right to their original expression, but encourages others to build freely on the ideas that underlie it. This result is neither unfair nor unfortunate: It is the means by which intellectual property law advances the progress of science and art. We give authors certain exclusive rights, but in exchange we get a richer public domain.
…Nothing today, likely nothing since we tamed fire, is genuinely new: Culture, like science and technology, grows by accretion, each new creator building on the works of those who came before. Overprotection stifles the very creative forces it’s supposed to nurture.”
(p. 203/204, quoting a decision by Judge Alex Kozinski, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, in
Vanna White v. Samsung Elecs. Am., Inc.; David Deutsch Assocs.
, 989 F. 2d 1512]
, Ricky Erway, 2008
On image licensing and cost sharing
: Our best hope seemed to be licensing the images…In the three and a half years of our agreement with Index Stock, 986 images were licensed…Nineteen of the thirty-one Trove.net contributors saw some licensing activity. Revenue returned to the institutions ranged from under a dollar to over a thousand. Clearly no one was getting rich! (pp. 3 – 5)
: We’re all trying to find ways to make our efforts sustainable…We tried subscription, licensing, advertising, and many other ways to try to establish them as self-supporting services. While it would be more gratifying to report on successes, it is in fact the disappointments that are more illuminating and instructive as we navigate the way forward. (Introductory blog post by the author:
12. Shirky, Clay, Smithsonian 2.0 conference keynote, 2009
On control and re-use
: "The re-purposing of Smithsonian materials is a done deal: the real question is how do we get value out of it. The fear that somehow everyone will expect us to control everything with our name on it - - not only is this not a reasonable fear based on the way the technology works, but society has internalized the idea that the re-purposing is not the same as the purpose. And to be a platform and to be a convener means opening up to kinds of uses you don't expect, and also kinds of uses you don't have to feel responsible for." (Quote begins at 25:30)
13. Smithsonian Institution Web and New Media Strategy, 2009
On the Smithsonian business model and the value of audiences
: The Smithsonian’s basic business model is to create social and economic value through the increase and diffusion of knowledge. Web and New Media programs are both an intrinsic part of this overarching model and an opportunity to develop new kinds of revenue in harmony with the mission. The Smithsonian’s current Web and New Media portfolio includes numerous separate transactional Web sites offering products, services, memberships, and tickets from isolated systems. While each of these systems may be sufficient for their individual tasks, the fact that they are not conceptually or technically integrated makes them more expensive to build and maintain, diminishes the user experience, and undercuts the Smithsonian’s ability to understand, serve, and grow the audience as a whole. By neglecting to present desirable e-commerce opportunities to visitors, and failing to understand visitor needs and interests, the Smithsonian loses countless opportunities to build loyalty and generate revenue every day.
Emerging from the Smithsonian’s 2.0 thinking is the potential for a new revenue model based on users and content. Amazon’s success is linked to the way it harnesses the collective intelligence of its huge base of users through recommendations and rankings. Google develops powerful information-access tools, then gives them to its users—for free—and makes billions by selling ads. In these models, the revenue-generating potential of a Web site is exponentially amplified by the size and activities of its audience. A Smithsonian digital audience 100-times larger than today’s can open up countless revenue opportunities that just are not financially feasible now. Ultimately, the most valuable business asset we can cultivate—and the one that is most fundamental to our core mission—is a community of engaged and committed Smithsonian enthusiasts.
(From Goal 7: Business Model,
14. Tanner, Simon,
Reproduction charging models & rights policy for digital images in American art museums, a Mellon Foundation Study
King's College London. King's Digital Consultancy Services. 2004
On the likelihood of recouping costs:
Everyone interviewed wants to recoup costs but almost none claimed to actually achieve or expected to achieve this…Even those services that claimed to recoup full costs generally did not account fully for salary costs or overhead expenses. (p. 35)
On the motivation for rights-and-reproductions activities
A museum does not carry out image creation or rights and reproduction activity because of its profitability. These services exist because of the internal need for image creation and rights clearance matching up with an external desire to publish and use museum images. The need to promote the museum collections, to gain appropriate credit and to honor the artist and their work are the real driving factors that underlie these services.
On financial goals and financial realities
The main financial goal of all the services interviewed is to make enough money to offset direct and visible costs like materials and new photography. However tempting it is for museums to look upon colleagues with 6 figure revenues with envy this would be a mistake. All those interviewed were spending as much or more money to provide services as they received in revenue and a high revenue generally represents large numbers of transactions or new imaging.
On how to fund digital initiatives
External funding will be essential to the expansion of digital activities in museums. There is clearly not enough revenue in current activities for most museums to reinvest surpluses into developing a direct digital capture studio or an infrastructure to store digital resources. Without external funding in the form of grants, project funds or special fundraising activities, it seems likely that many museums will lag behind the current activity curve to the detriment of society as a whole.
15. Yale University Policy: Open Access to Digital Representations of Works in the Public Domain from Museum, Library, and Archive Collections, 2011
"Digital Images of Yale’s Vast Cultural Collections Now Available for Free" via the Yale News website,
Memo on open access to digital representations of works in the public domain from museum, library, and archive collections at Yale University (5 May 2011) PDF via Yale's Website:
Quotes below are from the Memo on open access...
About the policy
: The preservation, transmission, and advancement of knowledge in the digital age are promoted by the unencumbered use and reuse of digitized content for research, teaching, learning, and creative activities. The goal of digitization is to harness the power of network technology to support these core objectives of the University by enabling global access to the collections in Yale’s museums, libraries and archives. Yale University can best realize this goal by making digital copies of works from the collections available for use without limitations. To this end, we propose that Yale University neither mediate access to nor restrict use of items digitized from its museums, libraries, and archives which have been made openly available through the University’s electronic interfaces, and which are no longer under copyright or otherwise restricted. (p. 1)
On thought leadership at the University level
: The proposed open access to digital reproductions of public domain works from the collections is the online equivalent to the policy of open accessibility to its museums and libraries that Yale maintains. Moving digital Yale onto the same policy is an opportunity for Yale University to provide thought leadership to the cultural heritage community at large. Discussion among twenty of the largest museums at the Mellon Foundation last year made clear that they as a community are ready to embrace new policies, requiring only a leader they can point to in order to effect similar policy with their boards. In a similar vein, Cornell University Library recently issued guidelines, which open access to public domain items duplicated from its collections. (p. 2)
On financial considerations
: Studies show that the cost of managing intellectual property and maintaining payment structures in cultural heritage collections almost always outweighs actual revenue. When transferred to the world of online digital resources, the cost of intellectual property transactions becomes even more onerous as it requires technical and legal frameworks for rights management that compromise the efficiency of the networked environment. Allowing public domain works to freely circulate is the most effective response. (p. 2)
On legal considerations
: We have consulted with the Office of the Vice-President and General Counsel which advises that without the commitment of additional resources to this end, enforcing license restrictions is often infeasible given the costs and resources such enforcement likely require. Moreover, as the legal designation “public domain” is supported by the rationale that eventually all creators and/or owners of content must relinquish their monopolies over such content making such content available for unmitigated access and use, attempts to restrict access through licensing provisions may be neither legally enforceable nor ethically prudent When transferred to the world of online digital resources, the cost of intellectual property transactions becomes even more onerous as it requires technical and legal frameworks for rights management that compromise the efficiency of the networked environment. (p. 2)
16. Revenue, Recession, Reliance: Revisiting the SCA/Ithaka S+R Case Studies in Sustainability, 2011
In addition, the following 12 case studies were consulted via "Revenue, Recession, Reliance: Revisiting the SCA/Ithaka S+R Case Studies in Sustainability"
[Editing these links/references is in progress
V&A Images: Scaling Back to Refocus on Revenue
(also cited above)
What it is:
Annual operating costs:
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Launching a ‘Freemium’ Model
What it is: open-access online reference
Business models: Endowment, subscriptions, university/institutional support\
Annual operating costs: $235k
Key finding: "Even projects that offer open access to content can develop alternative revenue streams: project leaders must, however, create the proper incentives for the user community to contribute" (p. 4)
Notes: 100+ volunteer subject editors and 1,300+ volunteer contributors
The Thesaurus Linguae Graecae®: How a Specialised Resource Begins to Address a Wider Audience
What it is: online corpus of Greek literature
Business models: Endowment, subscription, university/institutional support
Annual operating costs: $530k
Key finding: "Multiple revenue streams help protect projects in difficult economic times." (p. 4)
Notes: Subscriptions pay for 55% of operating costs (p. 3)
Electronic Enlightenment: Outreach or Outsource? The Benefits and Challenges of Partnership
What it is: Online journal of edited correspondence from the 17th to mid- 19th centuriesBusiness models: University/institutional support, subscriptions
Annual operating costs: $720k
Key finding: "Selling subscriptions is hard work and requires an insider's understanding of the needs and interests of the target audience and how to best communicate with them." (p. 4)
Notes: Revenue not yet meeting targets.
L’Institut national de l’audiovisuel: Balancing Mission-based Goals and Revenue Generation
What it is: French national audiovisual archive
Business models: Advertising, government support, pay per view/download, mobile, partnerships,
Annual operating costs: $10.7 million
Key finding: "Combining a public mission (offering open content) and commercial activities is possible, particularly when products are clearly differentiated." (p. 5)
Notes: Costs related to scanning, metadata creation and transcriptions, hosting, IT support, and rights clearance are not included in operating costs.
DigiZeitschriften: A Niche Project at a Crossroads
What it is: German language journal subscription/aggregator
Annual operating costs: $182k
Key finding: "Staying small and well-focused, with a core of supportive customers who truly value the resource, can be a successful sustainability strategy" (p. 4)
Note: partner libraries get grants independently to do digitization
7. University of Southampton Library Digitisation Unit: Reimagining the Value Proposition
8. The National Archives (UK): Enhancing the Value of Content through Selection and Curation
9. The Middle School Portal 2: Math and Science Pathways, National Science Digital Library: The Challenges of Sustaining a Project as the End of a Grant Approaches
eBird: Driving Impact through Crowdsourcing
The Department of Digital Humanities (DDH) at King’s College London: Cementing Its Status as an Academic Department
Hindawi Publishing Corporation: Growing an Open-Access Contributor-Pays Business Model
[Note again, editing for these case studies is in progress
17. National Gallery of Art: Open Access Policy for Images of Works of Art Presumed in the Public Domain
In March, 2012 the National Gallery of Art launched its new
NGA Images site
with 20,000 images at up to 3,000 pixel resolution under a new Public Domain Policy
"With the launch of NGA Images, the National Gallery of Art implements an open access policy for digital images of works of art that the Gallery believes to be in the public domain. Images of these works are now available free of charge for any use, commercial or non-commercial. Users do not need to contact the Gallery for authorization to use these images. They are available for download at the NGA Images website (images.nga.gov). See Policy Details below for specific instructions and notes for users."
18. National Gallery of Denmark (Statens Museum for Kunst, or "SMK") CC-BY pilot project
In April, 2012, The SMK chose to take the 159 images they contributed to the Google Art Project and post them to their own website, in high-resolution, under CC-BY (attribution) license.
"Like other museum institutions SMK is used to being seen as a gatekeeper of cultural heritage. But our collections do not belong to us. They belong to the public. Free access ensures that our collections continue to be relevant to users now and in the future. Our motivation for sharing digitized images freely is to allow users to contribute their knowledge and co-create culture. In this way, SMK wishes to be a catalyst for the users' creativity."
Karsten Ohrt, Director, National Gallery of Denmark (SMK)
From a Creative Commons case study:
[Excerpt from the
Free Download of Artworks pilot project site
How can you use the 159 art works?
All artworks are outside copyright, and we therefore allow you to:
Share the images – copy, distribute, and transmit them
Remix the images – adapt and reuse them in new contexts
Use the images for any purpose – for instance teaching, research, presentations, publications, film productions, etc., also for commercial purposes on the single condition that you attribute National Gallery of Denmark as the source of the image.
20. Europeana - - CC-0 Release of 20 million records, September, 2012
Press release: "Europeana's huge cultural dataset opens for re-use"
, dated September 12, 2012
“This move is a significant step forward for open data and an important cultural shift for the network of museums, libraries and galleries who have created Europeana. This is the world’s premier cultural dataset, and the decision to open it up for re-use is bold and forward looking – it recognises the important potential for innovation that access to digital data provides. This development means that Europe now sets the worldwide standard for the sector.”
Jill Cousins, Executive Director of Europeana
The Guardian "Europeana opens up data on 20 million cultural items"
, September 12, 2012
"Today Europeana is opening up data about all 20 million of the items it holds under the CC0 rights waiver. This means that anyone can reuse the data for any purpose - whether using it to build applications to bring cultural content to new audiences in new ways, or analysing it to improve our understanding of Europe's cultural and intellectual history."
21. Andrew W. Mellon Foundation: Images of Works of Art in Museum Collections: The Experience of Open Access (A study of 11 museums)
By Kristin Kelly, April 25, 2013
Providing open access is a mission-driven decision
The decision to provide open access to collection images is not a technological or a legal decision, though both come into play. Virtually every staff member of every museum emphasized that museums exist to educate and serve their various audiences, and access to images of works in the collection is part of the institutional mission.
Different museums look at open access in different ways
"Open access” is interpreted in many ways. The National Gallery, LACMA, and the Yale Center for British Art offer immediate downloads of high-resolution images that can be used for any purpose. The Victoria and Albert Museum and the British Museum have immediate, or very rapid, downloads for personal, scholarly, and academic purposes. At present, the Yale University Art Gallery provides cost-free access to images to be used for any purpose through contact with the staff of the museum. The Metropolitan Museum of Art offers images for immediate download for scholarly and academic purposes through the Images for Academic Publishing service of ARTstor, and for educational and personal use from its own website. The Walters Art Museum provides images through both direct download from its website and through Wikimedia. It will also provide high-resolution images through contact with a staff member. The Indianapolis Museum of Art generally requires a contract, but does not charge for educational, personal, or scholarly use, or in scholarly publications up to a specified print run.
Internal process is important
Each [staff member] is a stakeholder in the process, and each needs to understand and be enfranchised in the decision. Some of these staff could potentially lose their jobs or see their position descriptions change radically, and the human aspects of making a change cannot be underestimated. […] Staff from all of the museums in the study cited the support of either the director or another high-level staff member as important to the approach that the museum was currently taking.
Loss of control fades as a concern
For curators at the Walters Art Museum, loss of control was a concern, but one that faded quickly. According to staff there, it was discussed five years ago, but no one mentions it now. William Noel, WAM’s former curator of manuscripts, wrote, “We have lost almost all control, and this has been vital to our success.”
A decision to provide open access to images is not based on the technology that an institution has in place; however, having clean and complete metadata, an effective digital asset management system, generally solid museum technology, and the staff to manage all of these systems and data is important. […] Not all museums have adequate technology and staff, and this is a barrier.
Revenue matters less
Cost recovery and even, in some cases, net income from commercial licensing activities, are important considerations for museums. While a past study has shown that virtually no museum rights and reproductions operation is a profit center, and while museums generally acknowledge that their obligation and desire to provide information about the collection in as open a manner as possible trumps revenue concerns, revenue remains a topic of interest to many museums today.
Change is good No museum that has made the transition to open access would return to its previous approach. While there are challenges that are still being resolved, such as additional workload and potentially not knowing where images of works from their collections have been published, museum staff cited the satisfaction that comes from fulfillment of the museum’s mission as a tremendous positive. Most institutions are experiencing greater internal (and in the case of the Yale museums, university-wide) collaboration than in the past between museum departments and attribute this in part to their move to open access.
22. The J. Paul Getty Trust Open Content Program
initial release of 4,500 high resolution public domain images
in 2013 has grown to over 70,000 images as of February, 2015.
"Why open content? Why now? The Getty was founded on the conviction that understanding art makes the world a better place, and sharing our digital resources is the natural extension of that belief. This move is also an educational imperative. Artists, students, teachers, writers, and countless others rely on artwork images to learn, tell stories, exchange ideas, and feed their own creativity. In its discussion of open content, the most recent Horizon Report, Museum Edition stated that 'it is now the mark—and social responsibility—of world-class institutions to develop and share free cultural and educational resources.' I agree wholeheartedly."
Open Content, An Idea Whose Time Has Come
James Cuno, President and CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust
August 12, 2013
23. Sharing is Caring: Openness and Sharing in the Cultural Heritage Sector
Statens Museum for Kunst (National Gallery of Denmark), 2014
Merete Sanderhoff, editor, Curator of Digital Practice, National Gallery of Denmark
Free download at
Sharing is Caring: Openness and Sharing in the Cultural Heritage Sector
is an anthology that explores the changes and opportunities brought about by digitization, digital media, and the internet for the cultural heritage world and – not least – our users. The anthology contains 18 articles by Danish and international experts."
Catalysts for users creativity
At present the international GLAM sector is confronting rapid and radical developments in the media, platforms, and channels used by us all. Over the course of a few decades, the Internet and social media have turned firmly established practices and roles upside down. Audiences have become users who may no longer be satisfied with passively receiving information and content; they have become accustomed to participating actively themselves, contributing their own knowledge, attitudes, and creativity. All this has created the basis for OpenGLAM, an international grassroots movement which endeavours to make openness the standard for the GLAM sector and to establish shared principles for a new OpenGLAM practice based on the culture of sharing found within the social Internet. [Page 23, Merete Sanderhoff]
On copyright and costs
...A third major challenge concerns clearance of photo rights. This became evident when we began to request image files from other museums in order to show them side by side with our own works within the new Art Stories universe. The costs were tremendously high. Just one image could cost several hundred dollars, and even that would only buy us clearance for a limited period of time. The labour involved in writing to each rightsholder, asking for files, describing the intended usage, and so on, turned out to be a major drain on our manpower. What is more, the use of images from other collections prevents us from posting Art Stories videos on YouTube, where they could gain much wider exposure than when shut in and restricted to the museum’s own website. The vision of presenting art history on the terms set by the Internet had made good sense to us. It looked like the perfect medium for unfolding the paradigm of diversity. But then we came up against something that limited our options: copyright. [Page 52-53, Merete Sanderhoff]
24. Open Access Maps at the New York Public Library
20,000 high resolution maps released into the public domain in March, 2014.
"What does this mean? ... It means you can have the maps, all of them if you want, for free, in high resolution."
"We believe our collections inspire all kinds of creativity, innovation and discovery, things the NYPL holds very dear."
- - Matt Knutzen, Assistant Chief, Map Division NYPL
College Art Association: Copyright, Permissions, and Fair Use among Visual Artists and the Academic and Museum Visual Arts Communities; An Issues Report
By Patricia Aufderheide, Peter Jaszi, Bryan Bello, Tijana Milosevic - - February, 2014
Direct link to PDF:
Visual artists and other visual arts professionals, a term used in this report to include (among others) art historians, educators, professors, editors or publishers, museum professionals, and gallerists, share a common problem in creating and circulating their work: confusion and misunderstanding of the nature of copyright law and the availability of fair use—the limited right to reuse copyrighted material without permission or payment.
Fair use is flexible, available, and even core to the missions of many visual arts activities.
Members of the visual arts communities typically overestimate the risk of employing
fair use, which leads them to avoid it, even in circumstances where the law permits and so doing would not harm personal relationships necessary for their work.
They pay a high price for copyright confusion and misunderstanding. Their work is constrained and censored, most powerfully by themselves, because of that confusion and the resulting fear and anxiety.
The highest cost is scholarship left undone, knowledge not preserved for the next generation, creative use of digital opportunities truncated—the “missing future.”
Although all members of the visual arts communities of practice share these problems, artists are more likely to use copyrighted material without licensing it, and less likely to abandon or avoid projects because of copyright frustrations.
There is widespread and often urgent interest within the visual arts communities of
practice in finding ways to address a prevalent “permissions culture.”
Confusion about copyright and fair uses
"The visual arts communities of practice share a common problem in their confusion about and misunderstanding of the nature of copyright law and the availability of fair use. Their work is constrained and censored, most powerfully by themselves, because of that confusion and the resulting fear and anxiety. More and better work can be done through a fuller understanding of copyright, without impairing the ability of artists and art historians to receive credit for, maintain appropriate control over, and monetize their work."
"The visual arts field is pervaded with a 'permissions culture,' the widespread acceptance that all new uses of copyrighted material must be expressly authorized. This assumption has taken its toll on practice in every area of the visual arts field, adversely affecting the work of art historians, museums, publishers, and artists. As digital opportunities emerge, old frustrations with this permissions culture have taken on a new urgency."
The cost of avoiding fair use
"Interviews revealed examples of the cost of avoiding fair use:
Art historians have found it necessary to pay licensing fees from their own pockets—in one case, $20,000 for a single book—for permissions. They avoid writing surveys and historically oriented texts, which are permissions heavy, and often steer clear of the last hundred years of artistic production. They warn graduate students against pursuing certain topics. One interviewee said, “When you’re starting people on their research careers, you have to warn them: ‘Is your research topic going to be too expensive to publish adequately?’”
Scholarship is published without relevant illustrations, or not published at all. One editor said frankly, “You lose academic freedom because of copyright problems.” Another said, “I self-censor all the time because I don’t want to deal with the headache of getting the image out there.” Academic journals cannot be digitized because of the costs of renewing permissions previously obtained for publication.
Museum curators decide what to exhibit based on copyright issues. “We just avoid certain artists,” noted a curator. In one case, an entire exhibition catalogue involving appropriation practice was simply canceled because of copyright concerns. Digital showcases are abandoned or curtailed. According to an experienced archivist and scholar: ”We are misleading the world; we are not giving the complete picture of the resources. This is a censored view of the material.”
Artists do not always make the work they want to make. Instead, they sometimes have been forced to use inferior substitutes when permissions to incorporate copyrighted visual material in new work have been requested and refused. Several artists described abandoning multimedia works incorporating music because permissions could not be obtained. Other artists have seen distribution plans wither for work that uses unlicensed material, or have simply avoided experimenting with the possibilities of digital art. Artists were both curious about and wary of digital opportunities. According to one interviewee, “If one had more confidence in what one’s [use] rights are, one wouldn’t have to cower so much when confronted with these opportunities.”
26. Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for the Visual Arts
Published by the College Art Association, February 9, 2015
"This Code of Best Practices provides visual-arts professionals with a set of principles addressing best practices in the fair use of copyrighted materials. It describes how fair use can be invoked and implemented when using copyrighted materials in scholarship, teaching, museums, archives, and in the creation of art.
The Code addresses the following five questions:
Analytic Writing: When may scholars and other writers about art invoke fair use to quote, excerpt, or reproduce copyrighted works?
Teaching about Art: When may teachers invoke fair use in using copyrighted works to support formal instruction in a range of settings, including online and distance teaching?
Making Art: Under what circumstances may artists invoke fair use to incorporate copyrighted material into new artworks in any medium?
Museum Uses: When may museums and their staffs invoke fair use in using copyrighted works—including images and text as well as time-based and born-digital material—when organizing exhibitions, developing educational materials (within the museum and online), publishing catalogues, and other related activities?
Online Access to Archival and Special Collections: When may such institutions and their staffs invoke fair use to create digital preservation copies and/or enable digital access to copyrighted materials in their collections?
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