Thursday, July 02, 2009

Image Rights and Digital Databases

Lynn Boland sent this along last week:
Just in case there were still any questions about the positive correlation between having more images of works of art from the collection on the website, and on-site museum attendance--not to mention the myriad of other benefits--this IMLS-funded study should put them to rest. From the press release: “The Internet is not replacing in-person visits to libraries and museums and may actually increase onsite use of libraries and museums. There is a positive relationship between Internet use and in-person visits to museums and public libraries.” The report is called Interconnections, IMLS National Study on the Use of Museums, Libraries and the Internet and you can reach it by clicking here (there's also a snazzy PowerPoint presentation you can download).
We've also been reading the April 2009 issue of MuseumVIEWS (an organization that focuses on small and mid-sized museums), which addresses the issue of image rights in its cover article (not yet posted online) by Christine Sundt, who writes:
In the longstanding and fruitful partnership between art museums and publishers, tighter controls and escalating costs during the last decade have brought about frustration, confusion, and headaches for both parties. The licensing of art images--and the attendant costs and restrictions--has become a burden, especially in today's economy, when both museums and publishers are facing severe financial constraints and shortfalls.
Sundt comes down strongly on the side of open access and Creative Commons licensing, as well as in favor of digitizing collections, which can promote the easy and inexpensive distribution of images. She points out:
. . . the effect of the scaled pricing has been to pressure publishers into reproducing works of art in small black-and-white format rather than in reasonably sized color prints, to print smaller editions (at higher retail prices), and to pare down the image programs of their art books. The result has been less attractive, more expensive art books and fewer of them--surely not the aim of the publisher, the author, or the museum.

Sometimes a museum's fee is inconsistent. When, for example, the institution generously waives or reduces fees for scholars or nonprofit presses, it encourages the publication of scholarly works for arts professionals. But, in maintaining regular fees for other non-scholarly projects, it discourages "gateway" books such as children's books, textbooks, and beautifully produced gift books, all of which are vital in bringing new audiences to art. . . . What could be the alternatives to the traditional criteria for scaling fees? To waive fees for all mission-driven uses (books, journal articles, and educational Web sites) while increasing fees for other uses (note cards, tote bags, coasters, aprons, advertising campaigns, and the like). Or, to consider other ways to generate revenue for the museum that do not place the burden on images and scholarship.
We're doing our best to move into the digital age, but the issues are complex, and there are always new wrinkles that occur.

No comments: