Museum image fees - a call to arms (ctd.)

October 23 2017

Image of Museum image fees - a call to arms (ctd.)

Picture: Tate

Further to my post below, it seems there's another case of Tate misbehaving when it comes to charging fees for out of copyright artworks. When the Art Fund provides funding for an acquisition it makes all manner of stipulations, right down to the logo that must be used on the wall label accompanying a painting. According to their current grant conditions, an institution must provide free images for scholarly and academic use. Here's the relevant passage (paragraph D.16.e):

Supply of images to third parties. The Beneficiary will not charge any copyright fee when it supplies images of the Art Fund-assisted Object to third parties to be reproduced in academic, educational or scholarly publications, provided that (a) the print run for the publication (including any reprints) does not exceed 3,000, and (b) images are reproduced inside the publication and not on the book jacket or outside cover. 

Let's pick a high profile case of an Art Fund supported acquisition at Tate - Turner's Blue Rigi (acquired for £4.95m in 2007, with £500k from the Art Fund). If we go to Tate's image licensing website it soon becomes clear that Tate is ignoring the Art Fund's stipulations. For example, to use an image of the Blue Rigi just in a single, free, academic lecture the cost is £20. To reproduce the image in an academic book with a print run of 500 is £45, with £57 for a print run of 1,000, and £61 for a print run of 'up to 3,000'. That is explicitly contrary to what the Art Fund demands.

This is just one example of how iniquitous current museum policies are when it comes to image reproduction fees. It also shows how much museum time and money must go into organising and policing current fee structures. Far better to just allow free image use, as other insitutions are increasingly finding. If the Art Fund were to stipulate that from now on the images all artworks they fund must be made freely available, I'm sure we could make progress towards abolishing fees altogether. Come on Art Fund!

Update - The Art Fund conditions mention 'a copyright fee' as if it relates to all works. But as I  point out in the below post, there is of course no 'copyright' in most works the Art Fund helps institutions acquire (ie those paintined by an artist who died more than 75 years ago).  

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