V&A – no more academic reproduction fees

On the VRA listserv, Christine Sundt pointed to a brief article about a new policy at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London (V&A) – our friends in the UK have decided, so the headline of the article, to “scrap academic reproduction fees” for their images early next year. Alan Seal, Head of Records and Collections Services, talked briefly about this move during MCN, commenting that the V&A is poised to put upwards of 30k digital images in high resolution online very soon. It looks as though the V&A will use OAI and CDWA Lite to make the images available – Alan has been participating in the monthly conference calls of our Museum Collections Sharing Working Group, and seems well poised to become a major implementer of this suite of standards.

I recently guest-spoke in the JFK University Museum Studies Program, and it never fails to amaze me how alive & well expectations of significant revenue through reproduction still are. I had two quotes from Simon Tanner’s study for them, which I think made some of the students reconsider:

“Museums do not carry out image creation or rights and reproduction activity because of its profitability.”
“Everyone interviewed wants to recoup costs but almost none claimed to actually achieve or expected to achieve this.”

I’m thrilled to hear that the V&A has made the gutsy move to value the increased circulation of their materials higher than the (comparatively small) revenue stream they have achieved by licensing it!

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7 Comments

  1. Forgive me if you know about this already but an up to date review called ‘Art History and Its Publications in the Electronic Age’ by Hilary Ballon, Mariet Westermann is available through Rice University Press.
    [very interesting to see a UK repository taking such a ‘public-oriented’ line. In my experience UK sites are the most notorious in terms of attempting to slap, what I call: pseudo-de novo copyright over public domain works.]

  2. Hi, Gunter— thanks again for speaking and for sending this article to our class. I’m excited to see V&A taking this step as well… I have a stereotype of UK museums being mostly very traditional and conservative, and I’m glad to have that disproven any chance I get.

    Like a commenter at the original article, I wonder just how far they plan to extend the definition of educational use. I’ll be interested to see what this does in terms of increasing the museum’s reputation and standing, and eventually how it affects their attendance.

  3. I did see the study and have even quoted it in a previous blog at http://hangingtogether.org/?p=158. However, I still haven’t read it completely. I have to confess I’m very frustrated with the format in which the study is being made available. As far as I can tell, there isn’t a complete pdf file that I can print – I have to download every single chapter (and there are many!), and then print them. I’ve e-mailed the folks at Rice U about this, and they promised to publish a pdf.

    As to UK instititutions being conservative in terms of providing access – isn’t it refreshing to see our expectations and stereotypes contradicted? I’ll ask Alan Seal next time I speak with him how the V&A hopes to measure the public impact of this new policy!

  4. Yeah, the format is quite weird and I confess to only having read a few pages. I would also be glad to see it as a pdf.

    And yes, I was happy to have my UK-repository notions upended by the V&A turn of events. The internet may destroy boundaries in many respects but for repository fossickers like myself, the country location remains a prominent aspect. Although, I admit to a warming to UK holdings in recent times – despite the V&A announcement – familiarity confers greater confidence and ease of traversing idiosyncratic web architecture, if that makes any sense. Cheers.

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