Copyright Basics: A Workshop

Posted on April 24, 2013 by

JobiA blog post by Senior Collections Manager Jobi Zink.

Friday morning, fresh from her hellacious 6 hour train trip to New York, Karen and I headed into DC for a day-long workshop about copyright basics. Trust me, if you work in a museum and you want to mount an exhibition (or post something on your blog!) you’ll want to know the basics of copyright. And what better place to learn about copyright than the Library of Congress

Karen Falk and Tessa Sobol of the Textile Museum outside the Library of Congress.

Karen Falk and Tessa Sobol of the Textile Museum outside the Library of Congress.

Before getting down to the nuts and bolts of copyright, we divided into two groups and took a tour of the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress. Our tour guide, John, was very knowledgeable and highly entertaining. Karen was particularly impressed with the mosaic of Minerva: her feet seem to point directly toward you no matter where you stand to see her. (I was also obsessing with feet as my new shoes were giving me blisters.)

I highly recommend a free public tour of the Library of Congress

I highly recommend a free public tour of the Library of Congress

John Saint Amour was also our first presenter for the workshop. He gave us an overview of the copyright office and the basics of copyright. Section 106 of the 1976 Copyright Act gives the owner of copyright the exclusive right to:

* Reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords

* Prepare derivative works based upon the works

* Distribute copies of the work to the public nu sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease or lending.

* Perform the work publically, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audio-visual works.

* Display the works publically

* Perform the work publically

Workshop participants from Virginia, DC, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York introduce themselves.

Workshop participants from Virginia, DC, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York introduce themselves.

One of the most important facts that we learned (or were reminded of), was that just because the museum owns a painting, manuscript or photograph doesn’t mean that the museum owns copyright to the item. Further, the donor who signed the Deed of Gift might not own copyright to the item, even if it has been in the family’s possession for many years, as copyright is generally retained by the creator. This gave us something to mull over while we enjoyed our lunch in the LOC cafeteria.

Copyright protection is addressed in the Constitution of the United States.

Elizabeth Alberding, RC-MAAM Chair and Registrar at the Kelly Collection, took a quick run down to the Graphic Art Galleries to see the exhibition of Gibson Girl drawings by Charles Dana Gibson, as drawings from the Kelly Collection where she is registrar were on display.

This gorgeous exhibition will be on view through August 17, 2013.

This gorgeous exhibition will be on view through August 17, 2013.

The drawings in the exhibition reminded me of Harrison Fisher’s “Baltimore Girl” advertising poster for Hutzler’s department store in the JMM collection. 1989.207.004

The drawings in the exhibition reminded me of Harrison Fisher’s “Baltimore Girl” advertising poster for Hutzler’s department store in the JMM collection. 1989.207.004

Our first afternoon session, “Is Your Coffee table Copyrighted,” with Larisa Pastuchiv was pretty lively as we discussed visual arts and copyrights. If the artistic quality of your coffee table can be separated from its functionality and exist as an independent work of art, then the artistic component can be copyrighted!  Mike Burke talked about the Digitization and Preservation projects at the LOC. Working backwards in time from 1977 the LOC is digitizing the 40 million copyright records on file.  Following current archival standards, they are making three copies of each hi-res scan and storing backups in several offsite facilities. We rounded out the afternoon with a talk about Fair Use and Public Domain with Chris Weston. Under current copyright law, copyright protection is valid for the life of the author/artist plus 70 years and anything published before 1923 is in the public domain. Of course the examples Chris cited indicate that “fair use” is subject to interpretation.

table 1 The carving and inlay are copyrightable, but the tables themselves are not.

table 2

This day-long workshop was presented by MAAM –the Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums– as part of their Cornerstones Program. At $40 for members/$60 for non-members Cornerstones are a great bang for your buck! Check out the next Cornerstones Program – Understanding the Financials!

UNDERSTANDING THE FINANCIALS
MAY 7 at the Liberty Science Center
9:30 AM – 3:00 PM

• Reading Financial Statements
• Developing Budgets
• Understanding the 990 Forms
• Case Study: Relocating the Shuttle Enterprise, from a Financial View

DOWNLOAD THE REGISTRATION FORM

A one-day program focused on valuable financial knowledge for museum executives presented by experienced colleagues and industry professionals.

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3 Comments

  1. Rachel says:

    There is actually a whole comic book about copyright, from the Duke University’s Law School – http://web.law.duke.edu/cspd/comics/!

  2. Elizabeth Alberding says:

    The pieces in the exhibition are from the Library’s Collection. I wish they were mine. Hooray for the JMM having a Harrison Fisher!

    • Jobi says:

      Sorry I had my facts wrong! The Kelly Collection does have a number of Gibson drawings in the collection, right?

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