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The Metropolitan Museum of Art Makes 375,000 Images Available For Free (fortune.com) 42

The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced Tuesday that more than 375,000 of its "public-domain artworks" are now available for unrestricted use. "We have been working toward the goal of sharing our images with the public for a number of years," said Thomas P. Campbell, director and CEO of the Met, in a statement. "Our comprehensive and diverse museum collection spans 5,000 years of world culture and our core mission is to be open and accessible for all who wish to study and enjoy the works of art in our care." Fortune reports: The image collection covers photographs, paintings, and sculptures, among other works. Images now available for both scholarly and commercial purposes include Emanuel Leutze's famous painting Washington Crossing the Delaware; photographs by Walker Evans, Alfred Steiglitz, and Dorothea Lange; and even some Vincent van Gogh paintings. The Met has teamed up with Creative Commons, Wikimedia, Artstor, Digital Public Library of America, Art Resource, and Pinterest to host and maximize the reach of their enormous collection. There is also a public GitHub repository of the images.
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The Metropolitan Museum of Art Makes 375,000 Images Available For Free

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  • ...someone attempts to exert their copyright of "their pictures" of these "public domain artworks"?

  • There is also a public GitHub repository of the images.

    The write-up had me nodding in approval until the last sentence. How about we all repeat 200 times — lest some of us forget: binaries should never be placed under a textual revision-control system.

    • Re:GitHub?!? (Score:4, Informative)

      by wes33 ( 698200 ) on Tuesday February 07, 2017 @08:29PM (#53822883)

      there are no images at the github, only metadata

      • by mi ( 197448 )
        Ah, indeed, it is just one large CSV-file... The repo's README [github.com] says:

        Images not included

        Images are not included and are not part of the dataset. Companion artworks listed in the dataset covered by the policy are identified in the Collection section of the Museum’s website with the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) icon.

        Wish, the write-up was more accurate... Thanks!

    • by glitch! ( 57276 )

      ...binaries should never be placed under a textual revision-control system.

      Why not? It's not like people will check out the image, modify it with Photoshop, and check it back in. Right? Uh, oh.

      Dear lord! What have they done?!

  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced Tuesday that more than 375,000 of its "public-domain artworks" are now available for unrestricted use.

    Isn't that what "public domain" means already?

    • Re:Huh? (Score:4, Informative)

      by hey! ( 33014 ) on Tuesday February 07, 2017 @08:40PM (#53822923) Homepage Journal

      No, "public domain" means use of the works isn't legally restricted. It doesn't mean anyone actually has access to it.

      There are no doubt films in studio archives that are no longer covered by copyright for one reason or other, but they have particular reason to dig them out and transcode them. And certainly there are many works in museums that predate copyright altogether that are not available to outsiders. If the museum staff takes a picture of a public domain picture, the resulting picture of a picture is probably at least claimed to by under copyright, so that does the public no good either.

      • I can understand the confusion. What should be considered public domain aren't the artworks but their reproduction, that is, any photos or movies already made of the artworks. The museum pieces themselves aren't public domain, because real life objects aren't covered by copyright. Taking the painting itself from the museum would be stealing, both in a criminal and a figurative sense.
        • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Tuesday February 07, 2017 @09:33PM (#53823169) Homepage Journal

          It's not the object that's copyrighted in any case, it's the expression.

          Consider Ansel Adams famous photo of Half Dome at Yosemite. That was taken in 1960 and remains under copyright, but you're allowed to make your own photos of Half Dome, and because it's the same thing, they'll have quite a bit of similarity. But your photo is still yours.

          Now imagine you went through a great deal of trouble to reproduce the Adams photo as exactly as possible, taking a picture from the same place at the same time of day with similar film (if you can find it) at the same phase and altitude of the moon. I'd argue then that you've actually violated the Adams copyright, even though you never at any point made a physical copy of a copyrighted image. It's because you've copied his creative expression.

          By the same reasoning I believe the claims to copyright of simple photos of non-copyrighted paintings to be wrong. You are trying to reproduce the creative expression of the artist as closely as possible, and that is in the public domain. The situation is more complicated for three dimensional objects like sculptures or furniture where there are significant choices to be made about lighting and composition, but as long as you are producing a one-to-one reproduction (two dimensions to two dimensions, or three dimensions to three dimensions) I see insufficient creative input to stake any claim in the result.

          Art museums I think routinely make over-broad claims of intellectual property in order to monetize as much of their investment as they can. As social problems go, though, it's hardly high on the list; that said this is a praiseworthy step by the Metropolitan Museum.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            I'd argue then that you've actually violated the Adams copyright, even though you never at any point made a physical copy of a copyrighted image. It's because you've copied his creative expression.

            Argue all you want, Half-Dome has changed since 1960 (and so has the moon), so you'd never get an exact reproduction.

            Now you wouldn't want to infringe trademarks, and it might be pointless trouble(how many people want your photographs anyway?), but it!d be a devil of a lawsuit.

            • by hey! ( 33014 )

              It wouldn't have to be exact, it would have to be close enough to be a clear attempt at copying.

              • The worst that I can see that being viewed as is plagiarism - and that would depend on whether or not you were trying to pass it off as entirely your own work. This type of activity is happening with increasing frequency in the photography world - photo used for an advert is a third-party reshoot of something that another photographer had posted online. There have been court cases, but because you can't copyright the concept then they have tended to be for things like loss of earnings, plagiarism, etc. Here

          • by beernutz ( 16190 )

            I think your argument is moot however, as copyright does not cover only "creative expression". It also requires the item be fixed (laid down to paper or some other medium) and original as well.

          • The big problem I have is with the general failure to identify what constitutes "creative expression" and what constitutes elements of necessity.
      • No, "public domain" means use of the works isn't legally restricted. It doesn't mean anyone actually has access to it.

        So the "now available" is the only significant part of the statement; the "unrestricted use" is redundant. The way it was written is that the "unrestricted use" is the new part.

  • by gnunick ( 701343 ) on Tuesday February 07, 2017 @08:59PM (#53823027) Homepage

    Gee, that sounded so exciting. All this talk about images. If the editors had bothered to click the github link, they'd have seen this on the first page:

    The Metropolitan Museum of Art provides select datasets of information on more than 420,000 artworks in its Collection for unrestricted commercial and noncommercial use. ...

    Images not included

    Images are not included and are not part of the dataset. Companion artworks listed in the dataset covered by the policy are identified in the Collection section of the Museum’s website with the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) icon.

    It's metadata. No pictures. Hence the wikipedia links in the lame and misleading article.

  • Meh

  • When they acquire an image they want an original done by the original artist. But all they are offering me is a damn copy.
  • Link to the collection: http://www.metmuseum.org/art/c... [metmuseum.org]

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