Rijksmuseum: all photos free for use, and free of copyright

April 25 2014

There's a good interview in The Art Newspaper (the latest print edition, but not online)* with Wim Pijbes, director of the Rijksmuseum. He says -I'm summarising - that in his view all images held in public museums should be free for use, free of copyright, and that museums who charge for image rights only ever just about break even, once the cost of issuing those charges is taken into account. He also adds that within five years all major museums will have abolished image charges. To which, AHN says a loud hurrah, and well done Wim.

I often wonder if the expensive restrictions on reproducing images has led in part to the rise of guff in art history books. Because publishers cannot use images, and because art historians know this, we end up with books full of words instead of images. Is this too conspiratorial of me?

Update - a reader writes:

I am pleased to read that the Rijksmuseum allows free use of online images from its collection and that other museums will eventually follow suit. I hope that this will lead to a reinstatement of their ban on public photography, now that there is no need to take a lesser quality photo with shadows, glass and other visitors in the way. On my recent visit to the Rijksmuseum I was harangued by a woman repeatedly calling out 'Meneer!' (Sir) at me, to get me to move out of the way of her photo. Finally unable to ignore her loud cries any longer I turned round and replied, 'I don't understand you, I'm English!' and was pleased to see that her photo was just a white blur of reflections.

* The print edition of TAN is well worth subscribing to by the way -always packed full of goodies.

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