Image fees - your stories

April 24 2018

Image of Image fees - your stories

Picture: Louvre

One of the things that has spurred us on to campaign for the abolition of museum image reproduction fees here in the UK is individual stories from art historians. They're probably more powerful than any arguments I and my colleagues make, so I'm going to start publishing more of them here on AHN. So if you've had to pay an outrageous fee for images, or have had work rendered unpublishable because of fees, please get in touch.

Here's one story from a recent Cambridge University PhD graduate:

"I've been told that my thesis (which is essentially a visual dictionary of men's fashionable dress in the restoration period, including the many variations of each garment and numerous details in close-up) deserves to be published, but the the copyright fees demanded by many of the museums involved - let alone individual owners - will be considerable if all the illustrations are included - and omitting them rather defeats the whole purpose of providing scholars with an easily accessible work of reference.  

Quite apart from inhibiting general publication, whether in print or online, potential liability for such fees also resulted in my greatly delayed graduation. Without consulting anyone, the powers that be in this great university suddenly imposed a requirement that all theses should be presented not only in the standard printed and bound form, but also in a digital version. While a fair usage provision allows the traditional printed thesis to be lodged in the University Library without liability for copyright fees, this provision does not apply if the material is produced in another medium, which then counts as publication, and complying with the new regulation would have put me at risk of being sued under copyright legislation [...]. This was a risk I was not prepared to take, but persuading the University to back down was a long and extremely stressful process. I might also add that the very idea that owners of paintings produced several hundred years ago still have copyright in that material is questionable to say the least. Altogether the whole subject is a minefield which desperately needs to be addressed."

No other academic discipline faces this problem. 

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