Tyler Green
Art-focused Journalism by Tyler Green

Tyler Green Modern Art Notes

The List: Art museums and the public domain

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In recent years art museums have increasingly made available to anyone, free of fees, high-resolution images of copyright-clear images in their collections. The usual stipulations apply: The artworks themselves have to be in the public domain, which is generally counted as 70 years out from the artist’s death. Increasingly art museums view this as consistent with their missions, which typically involve sharing art in their collections as widely as possible, education and so on. Museums that launch new web presences, such as the Yale University Art Gallery did last week, are increasingly building this functionality into their new sites.

So many art museums have made the move toward placing their high-resolution images of art in their collections in the public domain that museums that fail to do so should now explain why they don’t.

(I wrote about this then-emerging issue in my Modern Painters column back in 2011.)

Here’s my (alphabetical) list of art museums and relevant, related institutions that make art in their collections available, or that are in the process of doing so. I’m likely missing a few, so please help me out.

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  1. Bettina says:

    This is incredibly helpful. Some of us are thinking in terms of “content trafficking” as a way to name the practice of collecting revenue from PD works. While “trafficking” is a little harsh, perhaps it will inspire the “museums that fail to do so” to come over to the other side…

    Here’s a working definition – love to hear any comments.

    “Content trafficking is the trade in public domain works, by cultural heritage institutions, as a revenue source. Content trafficking generates income in many forms: gift products, reproductions, commercial and non-commercial use and licensing fees and public paywalls. Historically, the host institutions control the level of extracted income from “their” public domain works.”

  2. […] paragraphs — several Los Angeles museums are also at the forefront of how art museums are making their collections available digitally for free: The Getty and LACMA provide copyright-cleared images of relevant artworks in their collections. […]

  3. […] The List: Art museums and the public domain […]

  4. […] Google Images, Search Tools, Usage Rights and then select “labeled for reuse.” The Atlantic and Modern Art Notes have lists of the museums and governments that offer CC licensed […]

  5. […] Art Museums and the Public Domain – art museums that make their content available. […]

  6. […] Art Museums and the Public Domain – art museums that make their content available. […]

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