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Subject: Sharing knowledge

Sharing knowledge

From: Joyce H. Townsend <joyce.townsend<-at->
Date: Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Niccolo Caldararo <caldararo [at] aol__com> writes

>>Recently I was contacted by an organization called Research Gate.
>>I think this site could function much like Robert Organ had hoped
>>his NIC would.  People could upload their treatment reports,
>>experiments on materials, etc., images of problems and we could all
>>download these articles, images and data and discuss problems
>Sometimes we may find that we could use tools that are already
>available instead of reinventing the wheel. I have recently
>discovered a site,
>    <URL:> is indeed a platform worth considering for sharing
knowledge and images, and discussing problem-solving in relation to
conservation treatments. But the online use of images does raise
issues over copyright, which anyone posting material to the site
needs to be aware of - because ignorance that one could be breaching
copyright law does not mitigate the offence. Recent moves towards
open access have not yet changed copyright law. Below are
suggestions as to how conservators seeking to share knowledge on
their treatments and research into works of art might avoid
breaching copyright law.

Authors own the copyright in their own texts, so a self-employed
conservator owns copyright in treatment reports etc., unless
copyright was assigned to the owner of the object in the contract
for treatment. But a conservator in employment usually does not own
copyright in reports etc. - the employer does instead, and would
have to give permission for online use. Photographers (which may in
fact be the conservator) own copyright in images, but others may
additionally own copyright in the artwork shown in the image.

In European Union countries, artists, designers, and after their
lifetime their estates, own copyright in images of works of art for
70 years following the death of the artist or designer. This makes
all conservation publishers very cautious about publishing images of
recent works of art, because reproduction fees might be payable to
other rights holders, including all of: the artist/estate, to the
present owner of the work, and to an image licensing body such as
DACS in the UK or VAGA in the US. Reproduction fees relate to the
use made of the image, and online use with no time limit generally
incurs the highest fees, and potentially the most litigation if an
image is used illegally.

Technical images such as details of the work, or views of a whole
work taken in non-standard lighting (raking light, ultraviolet,
infrared, X-radiograph, etc.) are subject to all the same
restrictions, in principle. But some of the concerns of rights
holders are that a high-resolution image posted on a website might
be user by a third party (i.e. not the person who posted it for
scholarly and academic reasons) for commercial gain. This is
unlikely to be a serious problem for technical images, and many
rights holders agree to their use or publication without charge,
when asked. Many more concede that they have not yet formulated a
policy on this, but that they support scholarly research and

So I would offer this advice:

    Avoid publishing any image, if the artist or designer has not
    been dead for 70 years or more

    In any case, ask permission of the owner, at least for overall
    views of the work

    If this is impossible, the owner being unknown (because the work
    was to be sold following treatment), add a line to say that
    concerns about the use of the image should be addressed to
    [name, URL] who would remove the image on request

    If the owner is known, but is not a public institution, his/her
    identity should always be withheld

    Consider providing a link to the owner's image of the work, on
    the owner's website, instead of posting the overall view taken
    by the conservator, if the owner is a museum with images of the
    whole collection on its website

    Consider posting only a low-resolution version of the overall
    view. The technical images, of more use to the conservation
    community, and less commercial use, can be posted at high

Dr Joyce H Townsend
Director of Publications, IIC

                  Conservation DistList Instance 27:9
                  Distributed: Sunday, August 18, 2013
                        Message Id: cdl-27-9-004
Received on Wednesday, 14 August, 2013

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