Art Museum Case Study

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Intellectual Property Law is concerned with providing legal protection to artistic works, inventions, and designs. The goal of this law is to offer an incentive for people to be reimbursed for their creative endeavour and insurance that they can benefit from their ideas and that their work will have legal protection from theft (HG Legal Resource, n.d.). There are four primary ways in which a business can protect its intellectual property assets: copyright, trademarks, patents and design rights (The UK Copyright Service, n.d.). This essay will focus only on one branch of Intellectual Property law, namely, copyright, which will be used to examine the impact copyright regulations have on the mission and activities of art museums in the United…show more content…
Art museums are more than locations that exhibit and house artworks. A museum also both produces and uses copyrighted works to teach the public about the cultural artefacts in their collection. The museum's staff creates gallery guides, catalogues, audio-visual materials, sells reproductions in their gift shops and more, which are all subject to copyright (Leaffer and Berkowitz, 1984). Additionally, the museums are always in the process of preserving and archiving their holdings, which has become easier with the currently available digital technology. Similarly, educating the public about their collection, researching, and disseminating this knowledge has become simpler with digital technology but at times is restricted by…show more content…
Generally, art pre-dating early 18th century is in the public domain because there was either no copyright or it has expired (Smith, 2013). When an artwork enters the public domain, anyone is free to use it in any way they please, whether it is to copy, reproduce or for commercial purposes. Crews argues that similarly to how the goal of copyright laws is to legally protect and encourage the author, the public domain is there to foster innovation by allowing the next generation of people to expand on previous works in ways the author may have disagreed with or did not anticipate (Crews, 2012). As a result, the use of public domain works is varied, it ranges from straight reproduction, such as during educational purposes, or adapted, such as for commercial reasons. However, despite many paintings having no copyright, museums tend to, nonetheless, invoke some legal restrictions, specifically using the reproductions on their website, which a few argue is to some extend unethical towards the audience (Petri, 2014). This notion will be discussed in more detail later in the
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