UK art historians call for abolition of image fees (ctd.)

November 7 2017

Image of UK art historians call for abolition of image fees (ctd.)

Picture: The Times

The campaign to abolish image reproduction fees for out of copyright paintings, drawings and prints held by UK national collections has moved up a gear. In parliament, Lord Freyberg has tabled the following questions to the Department for Culture Media and Sport:


  • To ask Her Majesty's Government whether National Museums will review their imaging policies in the light of recent calls to abolish image fees for out of copyright paintings, prints and drawings.
  • To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the impact of the charging of image fees for academic use by National Museums on their use in academic lectures and publications.
  • To ask Her Majesty's Government whether National Museums will consider providing open access to images of publicly owned, out of copyright paintings, prints, and drawings so that they are free for the public to reproduce; and whether they have held discussions with non-UK museums about such access.
  • To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they sanction each National Museum's interpretation of image copyright law; and if not, what measures are in place to review whether National Museums are interpreting image copyright law correctly.
  • To ask Her Majesty's Government how much income was raised by each National Museum by licensing images of out of copyright works in the last five years.
  • To ask Her Majesty's Government how National Museums assess whether the image fees they charge for academic use are reasonable; and what representations they have made to academic communities to evaluate their fees.


The first answers should come in within a couple of weeks. It will be particularly interesting to see the government's response on the question of copyright. Although we believe that there are strong moral, educational and public policy reasons to make images free, the question of whether museums are actually entitled to charge for 'licensing' copyright to third parties is crucial to the whole system. If, as I strongly suspect, it turns out that they are not, then museums will be under significant pressure to end charges for out of copyright artworks.

I'll be writing a post about the copyright issue in more detail soon.

Meanwhile, Neil Jeffares has posted his letter to the British Art Journal on image fees, from 13 years ago. It's sad that there has been no movement on the issue from museums, despite the likes of Neil and the BAJ making such a convincing argument for so long. 

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