Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

Museum Image Rights

Works digitized by National Galleries of Scotland, The Museum of Modern Art, and the Art Institute of Chicago, printed and on view as part of ‘Display at Your Own Risk’ at the Lighthouse in Glasgow.

Claire Voon, How User-Friendly Are Museum Image Rights?, Hyperallergic, 10 June 2016

If you’ve ever considered downloading a digital image of an artwork from a museum’s website, you probably know rather well that the world of copyright is an incredibly murky and difficult one to navigate. Even if artworks are in the public domain — in the US, this means copyright has expired, 70 years after an artist’s death — many cultural institutions still claim copyright on the digital representations that they have created and share on their websites. While exceptions largely allow users to download these pictures for personal, noncommercial, or educational purposes, these online legal conditions are often still difficult to completely understand, or sometimes, even find.

Display At Your Own Risk is a primarily web-based experimental exhibition that examines the current status of digital cultural heritage and public accessibility to it through the online collections of some of the world’s most physically frequented museums. Spearheaded by Andrea Wallace, a PhD candidate in Cultural Heritage Law at the University of Glasgow, it approaches the task from an internet user’s perspective to see if an institution provides the everyday person with enough information to avoid violating its image rights. Are these terms of use, for instance, easily accessible? And are they then presented in clear and specific language?

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