Public Domain Artwork Reproduction Session Notes -
THATCamp CAA 2015


Conveners: Anne Goodyear, Christine Sundt

Session proposal: 

“Public domain works of art should not be held behind barriers” -- Chris Hamma (sp?)

Especially when creators are long-gone (perhaps born in eras when copyright didn’t exist), they have no need any longer to assert rights. We are working within a culture of permission.

More and more museums are recognizing that the importance of putting the images out there is more important than collecting revenue.

CAA Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for the Visual Arts -- the booklet applies to US law only, doesn’t pretend to be a guide to best practices in other countries

Available here: 

Written and vetted by lawyers!! Very useful for museum legal teams, university legal teams, as well as publisher legal teams.

Next step: working with museums to update and refine their policies.

Jessica Backus from Artsy reports that they have about 30,000 public domain images on the site that are available for public use, including through an API.

Diane Zorich: Demand is increasing -- more and more museums releasing their public domain collections. The AAM is offering a webinar on “How to Go Open” because of demand. AAM webinar on Open Licensing here: 

Christine Sundt: Jason Mazzone, book on Copyfraud: Identifies instances where the law does not support the claim of copyright -- important to ask for proof that someone owns the copyright.

Issue: aren’t digital reproductions subject to different international laws? Yes, but if the use takes place in the US, the user is subject to US law and US law only. Christine Sundt suggests looking at these issues under the rubric of human rights rather than under the rubric of intellectual property law.

College Art Association has a list of organizations that have open repositories.

Diane Zorich opines that many institutions provide their public domain images as APIs, which isn’t useful for art historians -- should be able to get high resolution images from the website.

Christine Sundt: clickthrough contracts are bad, because then you have agreed to give away your right to use the public domain image.

ArtSTOR: is anything in that database open access / public domain? Max Marmor from Kress: the Kress painting collection is the only open collection in ArtSTOR: it was negotiated that way. ArtSTOR is planning to create an Open ArtSTOR collection -- as part of their mission they want to open up a great deal of their (very large) collection.

Digital Public Library of America: ArtSTOR contributes content to it -- how many people use DPLA? (Not too many art historians.) 

Artsy: has a significant collection of public domain items, but no way to find only those. DPLA also doesn’t have a way really to search for art specifically: just to refine by “image” facet etc. or search by topic.

Creative Commons does have a Public Domain mark, but some might be hesitant to use that, thinking that it signals a license, not something truly public domain: 

DPLA “Getting it Right on Rights” project: 

John Resig: dealing with auction houses and dealers, many of whom are reproducing public domain works -- much less willing to open things than museums & universities

Jessica Backus: Artsy has found that more and more dealers are willing to open up their digital images, although some never will

Studies by Simon Tanner about how museums don’t really make money on revenue streams from image licensing

Copyright and Art Issues: