Offices & Services

Copyright Policy

Copying Images of Art, Artifacts, Specimens

From Fyffe, R., and Walter, S. 2005. The Digital Difference: Responsible Conduct of Research in a Networked World. Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas Graduate School, pp.30-31.

“The images of artifacts found on the Web, in a database, or in printed books may be protected by copyright and should not be reproduced indiscriminately even if the originals that are depicted are in the public domain (e.g., a 15th-century painting or a 17th-century printing of a poem). Copyright to the images might be owned by the repository that hired the photographer (depending on their degree of originality), and professional courtesy requires that reproduction rights be requested in any case. Museums and other repositories of unique artifacts typically set special conditions for the reproduction of images of the objects that they own. These repositories have an interest in assuring that copyright (if any) is respected, the reproductions are faithful, and the objects are accurately described. In addition, reproduction fees often provide a source of revenue.

Researchers who wish to publish an image of an object from a museum, archive, or library should request permission from the repository… Although guidelines vary from one repository to another, they usually specify how details or close-ups from the original may be handled, what kinds of changes in the image or its color are permitted, and how the item should be cited.

Who Owns What?

A Repository (or Private Collector) may own the object (manuscript, painting, artifact) and control the conditions under which images of it can be reproduced.

A Photographer (or his/her Employer) may own the copyright to a photographed image of the original object, even if the object is in the public domain, if the photograph embodies a sufficient degree of originality.

An Author or Artist may own the copyright to the original work ‘fixed’ in the object. Locating the copyright owner or owner of other reproduction rights – whether textual or visual — is not always straightforward. If you need an image of an artifact to illustrate a publication or public lecture, start with the repository that owns the object.”