Research Institutes in the History of Arts against Rising Image Permission Costs

RIHA Resolution on Copyright

As agreed at the RIHA General Assembly, Rome, 8 November 2008

1. Statement

“Copyright seeks to protect the rights of authorship while securing the dissemination of knowledge. It protects the form of expression of ideas, but not the ideas, information or concepts expressed (…) A regime which is unduly protective of the interest of existing rights holders may therefore inhibit, or even stifle, the development of original material.”
British Academy, Copyright and Research in the Humanities and Social Sciences, 2006

RIHA, the International Association of Research Institutes in the History of Art, is concerned that recent developments in technology, legislation and practice have meant that the various copyright exemptions that exist to promote the advance of creative and scholarly work are not being applied to achieve their intended effect. RIHA strongly believes that neither copyright nor licensing rules should inhibit the development and diffusion of original scholarly research, regardless of the way in which it is published or otherwise disseminated.

RIHA calls upon copyright holders and other stakeholders including publishers, galleries, museums, and collecting societies, when dealing with scholarly research, to:

Subscribe to the definition of scholarly research as stated in section 2 of this document

Apply the existing copyright exemptions in keeping with their intended purpose

Refrain from demanding or refusing unnecessary permissions, or granting these permissions on unreasonable terms.

RIHA further calls upon collecting societies and monopoly copyright holders, when charging for the use and reproduction of images in scholarly publications, to charge solely the marginal cost to the institution of making the specific reproduction for delivery to the researcher, rather than the costs of creating and maintaining a collection of images or of making provision for a profit margin on transactions.

2. Definitions of research

For the purpose of clarity, RIHA proposes the following definitions of research:*

Scholarly research

A type of non-commercial research whose principal objective is public benefit rather than private profit and/or the recovery of the costs of the research. Scholarly research may include the initial stages of collecting material as well as subsequent stages which involve the analysis and publication of the results. The presentation of the results will be without charge to the recipients or will be at a charge which can only be expected to cover the reasonable costs of production and distribution, including the reasonable profits of a commercial publisher.

Commercial research

Research whose principal objective is profit rather than public benefit. Commercial research normally includes a charge to the user that covers the cost of the research as well as its dissemination, and includes a profit margin.

3. Recommendations

RIHA urges copyright holders and other stakeholders to respect of the following British Academy recommendations (paraphrased):

Recommendation 1

Copyright must provide reasonably broad and practically effective exemptions for research and private study, and for criticism or review.

Recommendation 2

With regard to the exception for research and private study under the 1988 Copyright Act:

a) ‘Research’ should be treated as distinct from ‘private study’ and should not only encompass the intial stages of an academic project but also subsequent analysis and publication

b) Research should be treated as non-commercial where the taking of copyright material is fair, and where any charge to the user would only cover production and distribution of a publication (including reasonable profit of a commercial publisher)

c) Research funded by a research council or charity is by definition non-commercial

d) In the case of commercial research, charges should be reasonable and abuse should be restrained.

* The definitions of research are based on the findings and recommendations of the British Academy report Copyright and Research in the Humanities and Social Sciences (2006) and the Guidelines on Copyright and Academic Research, issued as a supplement to the report. RIHA also notes that the Joint Guidelines on Copyright and Academic Research (2008), published jointly by the British Academy and the Publishers Association, offers valuable clarification of some of the issues touched on in the 2006 report. All three documents can be accessed and downloaded at


This is a step in the right direction! The rising costs for the image permissions are a big problem for art history publishing. Dee below the links for similar statements on this topic.

Note that fortunately the definition of non-commercial in this appeal is broader that in the Creative Commons context (“NC”). Publishing in a scholarly journal of a commercial publisher or in a publisher’s database is regarded as incompatible with “NC”.

Links on the art history image permission crisis

Appeal of the leading Paleographical Society CIPL 2002 against reproduction fees

K. Hamma: Public Domain Art, in D-Lib 2005

J. Howard: Picture Imperfect, in CHE 2006

Ballon/Westermann report, 2006 especially

Susan Bielstein: Permissions, A Survival Guide, 2006

Bielstein article

Best Practices for Access to Images: Recommendations for Scholarly Use and Publishing, 2008
More on the “French connection”:
Le droit aux images à l’ère de la publication électronique, 2007
See the German coverage

Materials in German with more links

See also my “Kulturgut muss frei sein!” 2007

Update: My Comment on the RIHA resolution published in Kunstchronik: (German)

Update: Cornell’s Public Domain Policy

Update: British Library

Diesen Blogbeitrag zitieren
Klaus Graf (2008, 24. Dezember). Research Institutes in the History of Arts against Rising Image Permission Costs. Archivalia. Abgerufen am 13. Juni 2024, von

Autor: Klaus Graf

Historiker und Archivar, Blogger

Ein Gedanke zu „Research Institutes in the History of Arts against Rising Image Permission Costs“

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