Museum: “I own everything all the time so there”

News from the heads up seven up department…

So it seems Germany can’t get with the program when it comes to art… which is weird… you’d think Germany of all places would make good decisions concerning art… but no…

A court in Berlin has made a very bad ruling, saying that digitizing images in the public domain creates a new copyright. We wrote about this case last year, involving the Reiss Engelhorn Museum in Mannheim suing Wikipedia because users had uploaded 17 images of the museum’s public domain artwork. Ridiculously, the German court sided with the museum:

The court ruled against the Wikimedia Foundation and in favour of the Reiss Engelhorn Museum. The German court dismissed the case against Wikimedia Deutschland on the grounds that it was not legally responsible for the files in question, which were held by Wikimedia Commons in the US, which in turn are managed by the Wikimedia Foundation.

Read the whole article here: https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20160623/06413834791/terrible-ruling-germany-digitizing-public-domain-creates-new-copyright.shtml

So a German museum wants to have the exclusive right to the digitization of artworks it owns… because that’s the purpose of museums right? Museums are totally supposed to repress the spread of artworks and enforce licensing regimes to use the art they conserve…
Museums totally aren’t supposed to be connecting as many people as possible with as much art as possible…

That was sarcasm. I feel that claiming copyright on any artwork that museums own outright is counter-productive and inherently immoral. For a museum to say “we do this for the public” but then behave like art hoarding gatekeepers is just… so stupid and wrong.

The numbers don’t lie. At New York’s Museum of Modern Art, 24 of 1,221 works by Pablo Picasso in the institution’s permanent collection can currently be seen by visitors. Just one of California conceptual artist Ed Ruscha’s 145 pieces is on view. Surrealist Joan Miró? Nine out of 156 works.

Source: http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20150123-7-masterpieces-you-cant-see

The reality is that this isn’t exactly an isolated incident… the reality is that museums all over the world need to do better. People need to start demanding they do better. We, as a society, rarely try to keep museums in account or try to remind them that while their money may have come from a small selection of rich folks their purpose is universal… to serve the public as best they can.

So… To Sum Up…

The fact that a museum is suing a wildly beneficial online encyclopedia over informational pictures of old artwork is just the tip of the ‘annoying museum behavior‘ iceberg… or at least, that’s how I feel…

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