Monday, August 8, 2022

Should Museums Be In the Licensing Business?

Peter Hirtle, from the LibraryLaw Blog, takes this July 4th to ponder why, given the ominous copyright cloud, museums and repositories would even bother getting into the licensing business. He picks up on our previous post on photographer Anne Pearse-Hocker copyright lawsuit against Firelight Media and the Smithsonian. Hirtle’s thoughts:

[T]he document reveals the kind of misunderstandings that can result when repositories get into the permissions business. To me, the most troubling portion of the document is Exhibit D, the museum’s permission form, which states that “Permission is granted for the use of the following imagery, worldwide, all media rights for the life of the project.”  Firelight is then charged $150 in permission fees for the use of the three listed images. If I was Firelight, I would assume that I was in the clear; I had worldwide rights.  What the form does not make clear is that the permission derives from the Smithsonian’s rights as the owner of the physical negatives.

He continues:

The case is a strong reminder that when making reproductions for patrons and granting permissions, repositories need to be crystal-clear about what they are doing.

Hirtle’s entire comments can be read here.


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