Open Images. Risk or opportunity for art collections in the digital age?

  • Merete Sanderhoff
Keywords: digitized collections, image licensing, open access policy, public domain, copyright, Creative Commons, reuse, the social Web, business models, OpenGLAM


Museums around the world hold enormous troves of public domain artworks. In digitized form, they can be powerful tools for research and learning, as well as building blocks in the hands of students, teachers, scholars, developers and creative people. By opening up their digitized assets for reuse, museums have a unique opportunity to broaden the scope of their public mission to serve and educate the public on 21st-century media terms. What could be controversial about that? Art museums have a long legacy of restricting access to high-quality images of artworks in order to protect them from improper use, and to be able to secure revenue from image sales. However, in the age of easy and ubiquitous online image sharing, restrictive licensing is severely challenged both as a means to control usage of images and as a sustainable business model.