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Free Digital Images for Scholarly Publications

posted by Christopher Howard — Oct 16, 2008

CAA reminds you that three major museums—the National Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York—have made digital images of works from their collections available for free for scholarly publications.

National Gallery
As part of its ongoing commitment to support scholarship and encourage research into England’s collection of old-master paintings, the National Gallery waives reproduction charges for digital images for use in academic books and journals that meet specific criteria and where orders are processed and delivered via its Picture Library website. Authors publishing academic work relating to the gallery’s collection are encouraged to use high-quality digital images available only from National Gallery Images, where charges will be waived for nonprofit, short-run publications. Discounts are also available for image use in student theses, academic presentations or lectures, and noncommercial private use.

Images are available at A4 and A5 at 300 dpi/ppi. The picture files themselves are derived from fully color-calibrated digital-image files created by the National Gallery. The color is therefore consistent across all images in the collection, meaning image users are able to make informed comparisons about color, tone, and brightness, and be assured of consistent color reproduction through to print.

Victoria and Albert Museum
Since early 2007, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London has ended charging reproduction fees for its images used in scholarly publications. Publishers will be able to download images from the museum’s collection of more than 25,000 works directly from its website.

The museum keeps a broad definition of “scholarly.” The images will be available to students and teachers, as well as to publishers, for use in their research and coursework. The museum will continue to charge commercial publications, but their termination of fees for reproduction may encourage other institutions to follow suit.

Metropolitan Museum of Art
In 2007 the Metropolitan Museum of Art formed a partnership, called Images for Academic Publishing, with the nonprofit digital-image provider ARTstor to offer high-resolution digital images of artworks in its collection for scholarly publication—free of charge. This initiative is intended to make it easier and less expensive for authors and publishers license images for reproduction. Under a special agreement with ARTstor, this service will be available to users—both individual and institutional—who are not ARTstor subscribers.

With this important step in overcoming a longstanding obstacle to scholarly art publication, the museum aims to serve its scholarly mission by disentangling many of its most frequently requested works of art from the burden of permissions paperwork—and from the confusion that often accompanies image rental, artwork copyright, photographic copyright, and licensing. Included are many works whose copyrights have expired (generally, works created before 1923 or whose creators died more than seventy years ago) are in this cluster of images. In some instances, however, third-party copyright permissions may be needed (such as where the underlying work in an image is still under copyright). Other terms and conditions also apply.

More Information
For more information on CAA’s work on digital images, publishing, copyright, and more, please see the Intellectual Property and the Arts section of the website.