Another major American museum has joined the growing list of institutions to adopt an Open Access policy. The Cleveland Museum of Art announced this week that it is releasing about 30,000 images of works in its collection into the public domain, effective immediately. These images have been given a Creative Commons Zero (CC0) designation, which means you can use them for anything, without a fee or permission.
Good news! The Art Institute of Chicago has launched both a new website and a new Open Access policy for more than 44,000 of the images you’ll find on it. Like the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Walters Art Museum before it, the AIC has released its images into the public domain under a Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license, which is the least restrictive kind you can use. This means that you are free to download and reuse these images for any purpose–even a commercial one–without having to pay a fee or seek any additional permission. As always, this only applies to the museum’s images of artworks which are themselves in the public domain, so most modern and contemporary art (including Picasso’s Old Guitarist and Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks) is excluded from the policy.
The Barnes Foundation has joined a growing list of museums and other institutions that are designating their public domain images as Open Access. As always, this applies only to artworks not still protected by copyright, so most 20th-century artists (most notably Matisse, in the case of the Barnes) are excluded. But images of works by many earlier artists (such as Renoir and Cézanne) in the Barnes’ collection are now free for unrestricted use.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art has dramatically expanded its commitment to Open Access. On Facebook Live this morning, Director and CEO Thomas P. Campbell announced that the Met would make 375,000 images of public domain artworks in its collection freely available for unrestricted use through its new Open Access Policy. This effectively supplants the Met’s earlier Open Access for Scholarly Content (OASC) and Images for Academic Publishing (IAP) programs, which limited their scope to academic and non-commercial uses. The Met’s images may now be used freely for any purposes, including commercial ones. As always in questions of copyright, this policy applies only to images of artworks which are themselves in the public domain, so most modern and contemporary art is excluded.
Images that are covered by the Open Access Policy are marked on the Met’s website with a Creative Commons Zero (CC0) symbol, meaning that the Museum has waived copyright and dedicated these images to the public domain. Artstor, the Wikimedia Foundation, and Creative Commons–all of which partnered with the Met on this initiative–will also be making these images available on their own sites.
With this new policy, the Met becomes only the second American institution (after the Walters Art Museum) to adopt the generous CC0 designation for its images. It is by far the largest art museum yet to have embraced such a sweeping vision of open access.
The Walters Art Museum in Baltimore–one of our Department’s CTPhD Program partners–was among the first museums to make images of many of the artworks in its collection freely available to the public way back in 2012. Ever since that time, you have been able to download high-resolution images of its works either on the museum’s own website or in Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons (CC BY-SA) license.
Now, the Walters has taken the unprecedented step of waiving copyright altogether and dedicating these images to the public domain (CC0). There are no longer any restrictions whatsoever on your use of these images. You don’t even have to say that they came from the Walters (although in general, crediting the source of an image is still considered a best practice whenever possible).
Note that this new policy does not apply to images of every artwork in the Walters’s collection. All of the images released into the public domain are of artworks that are themselves also in the public domain. If an artwork is copyrighted, the Walters does not have the authority to place images of it in the public domain. This means that most art made since about 1900 is still under copyright, so those images are not made available here. However, since the Walters focuses mainly on earlier periods, this restriction excludes a relatively small number of the works in its collection.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art has made more than 400,000 images of public domain works in its collection available for non-commercial use through its new Open Access for Scholarly Content (OASC) initiative. You may now download images from its website and use them for scholarly purposes–including print and online publication–without having to request permission or pay a fee. The Museum is letting users decide if their own projects qualify as “scholarly” or “non-commercial”; you can find definitions and examples on the Met’s OASC FAQ page. You may also want to consult the fine print in the Terms and Conditions for the Met’s website. Commercial use of these images is not permitted.
This is not the first time the Metropolitan Museum of Art has made its images available for free. You have been able to download large images for personal use since its website was redesigned a few years ago, and its collection has been the cornerstone of Artstor’s Images for Academic Publishing (IAP) since that program’s creation. OASC gives users yet another avenue for accessing and using the Met’s images.
Two years ago, I reported that the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) had launched its Image Library, which allowed users to download images of works from its collection for any purpose. Now LACMA is expanding this service through its new collections website, which vastly increases the number of images available for download from 2,000 to 20,000. And like before, the Museum places no restrictions on your use of these images, so you are free to do whatever you want with them.
BIG NEWS! The National Gallery of Art in Washington has just launched the NGA Images website. There you can download any of their images of works in the public domain (which means almost all of their pre-1900 art). You can read the full press release here.
The images that you can download are 1200 pixels on their long dimension, which is perfect for use in Powerpoint or OIV (see an example here). In addition, if you register on the site, you also get access to 2000-pixel and 3000-pixel images, which are suitable for scholarly publications. And it’s all free of charge!
But what makes this site truly remarkable is that you’re also free to use any of the images you download for any purpose you want, without even having to seek the museum’s permission. It’s all part of the National Gallery of Art’s Open Access policy. This follows the recent news that Yale University and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art would similarly open their image collections for unrestricted public use. The stature of the National Gallery of Art’s collection makes this an even bigger announcement . . . and another important milestone on the road towards greater public access to online image collections.
In addition to being New Year’s Day, January 1st every year is also Public Domain Day, a celebration of artists and authors whose works are entering the “public domain” because the copyright protection of those works has expired.
Technically, no major works will actually enter the public domain in the United States this year (or in any year until 2019), thanks to a series of complicated changes to United States copyright law since 1978. But in many countries, copyright protection ends 70 years after the death of the artist or author. So in those countries at least, works by anyone who died in 1941 would have passed into the public domain on January 1, 2012.
Artists who died in 1941 include a number of important late 19th- and early 20th-century figures, such as Émile Bernard, Maximilien Luce, William McGregor Paxton, John Lavery, El Lissitzky, Alexei Jawlensky, and Robert Delaunay (left).
The VRC’s website has a Copyright page with more information and links to additional resources.
Please note that I am not a copyright lawyer, so my comments here should not be mistaken for legal advice. You should always consult a copyright professional if you have questions about whether or not a particular work is in the public domain.
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) has just launched its new Image Library, which lets you download free, high-resolution images of works from its permanent collection. Many other museums already do the same thing, but LACMA’s Image Library is different in one significant respect: it explicitly permits you to use its images without restriction. That means you don’t need to seek the museum’s separate permission in order to use these images in publications.
Note that this only applies to works that LACMA has established as being in the public domain, so most 20th-century works are excluded. The VRC’s Copyright page explains why this is.
You can read LACMA’s Terms and Conditions of Use here. Hopefully, this openness is part of a trend towards greater access to images.