Copyright and Museums: A Discursive Workshop

Oğulcan Ekiz
, Department of Law, Queen Mary University of London, o.ekiz@qmul.ac.uk, @ogulcanekiz

Ashley Gallant, Department of History of Art, University of Nottingham (History of Art), Sheffield Museums Grischka, ashley.gallant@nottingham.ac.uk

Grischka Petri, Department of Intellectual Property Rights, Leibniz Institute for Information Infrastructure, grischka.petri@partner.kit.edu

This workshop aims to collect opinions and continue the lively sector discussion on the relationship between copyright on one hand and public rights of use and access to publicly owned artworks on the other. 

Museums and galleries look after objects on behalf of society, but some of these artworks are subject to copyright law that attempts to balance the creators’ right to profit with the right of the public to use and build on creative works. At the same time, other works have become part of the public domain.

While the law sets criteria for granting copyright and regulates permitted and restricted acts, stakeholders may interpret the law differently or focus on certain legal aspects that they find beneficial for their specific interests. For example, while some museums argue copyrighting photographic reproductions creates revenue from licenses, it can also prevent access to artworks in the public domain by using property and photography rights to re-instate protection and control. 

If copyright aims to create a balance of interests, a discussion about whose possible interests and curatorial intentions are affected by copyright, and about the roles and double binds of all agents is called for. 

The workshop invites participants to reflect together on their experiences with copyright law.  To explore questions such as, is copyright obstructing participatory formats for museums? Is copyright stifling research? 

There will be three 10-minute provocations, each followed by a 20-minute open discussion or discursive activity, to which AAH conference participants who book this workshop are invited to contribute. Each short discussion will be based on the issues and possibilities bought up in the provocation. Participants need no research background in copyright, just a keen interest in the useability of images, their own experience with copyright and an open mind.

Ashley Gallant will start the conversation by providing an introduction from a curator’s perspective. Oğulcan Ekiz will present the notion of ‘exception policies’ for museums. Grischka Petri will take up the problem of copyrighting reproductions of works of art in the public domain. These introductory sessions will be followed by a 30-minute open discussion to locate key areas of concern and identify possible actions to be taken in relation to copyright, museums, and art history. 

This session is a participatory discussion on copyrights effects on museums and art history. We invite participants to submit their questions, provocations, experiences, and perspectives on the topic to the convenors beforehand to help us shape and guide the session. Deadline 1 November 2021. Please submit your paper proposal to the convenors.

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