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Fair Use Question of the Month: Exhibitions of Copyrighted Art

Protest artDear CMSI,

I work at a museum and I’m on a team that’s putting together an exhibition on art emerging from twenty-first-century protest movements, with a web component and an interactive, online catalogue. Some of the art is digital, some is ephemeral, some of it was created anonymously. I already have access to most of it, but do I need to get permissions before I can use it?

Prasanth

Dear Prasanth,

You might consult the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for the Visual Arts to see if your uses are within the best practices of your field.  Your peers believe that museums “may invoke fair use in using copyrighted works, including images and text as well as time-based and born-digital material, in furtherance of their core missions,” with certain limitations. You can check to see how your museum’s uses align with the limitations, which include (among others) a clear link between the selected materials and the purpose of the exhibition or related activity, an appropriate choice of reproductive quality, and of, course, attribution where possible.

Best,

CMSI