photography, copyright and institutional policies

I’m writing something on the different ways in which art museums treat the photography of works of art on display, or indeed the internal architecture, or the spatial relationships between works of art and their architectural context. For example, some museums (eg. the NGA) declare that it’s a condition of entry that you do not take photographs inside the building. Others (eg. the AGNSW) have little signs that indicate “no photography” on some works and not others. Others (eg. the NGV) appear to have no restrictions.

So here’s an open question: does the act of taking a photograph constitute an infringement of the copyright that may be inherent in a work that is photographed, or might an infringement only occur when you publish/reproduce it in some way? Or for commercial gain? Or does the very capture of an image constitute an act of reproduction? The Arts Law Centre says:

“You may be infringing copyright if you photograph the whole or a substantial part of a literary, musical, dramatic or artistic work, if the work is still protected by copyright. For further information on copyright, see the Australian Copyright Council information sheets.”

(You can ignore the inherent conundrum here – how you might photograph a musical work?)

At the ACC you will find that there are the possible special exceptions to Copyright provided in relation to research, criticism, review, parody and reporting news, which is referenced under “Fair Dealing” by the ACC here.

But this doesn’t help you if the act of taking a photograph is prohibited. Answers, opinions, anybody?

PS. I won’t even ask whether the photograph and its reproduction is itself intended as a work of art…

PPS. If you want to follow this thread (sideways) into the realm of non-human agency (!) read this at ArtInfo.


Be first to comment

Leave a Comment