Legal Challenges Posed by Online Aggregation of Museum Content: The Cases of Europeana and the Google Art Project
Posted: 2 Aug 2021
Date Written: December 1, 2012
Museums are, in most cases, publicly-owned holders of vast amounts of information that are, by definition, open to everyone. Location restrictions, however, usually limit public access. The Internet could change this: once museums digitise their collections and upload them onto their Internet sites, online access would be possible for anyone, anywhere. The difficulty in this case would be that there are practically thousands of museums around the globe, ideally each maintaining its own Internet site. Users therefore face substantial difficulties when conducting research online. From this point of view it is probably a self-evident development to aggregate online museum content in a single website, in order to facilitate user access. This explains the initiatives, for instance, of Europeana from the public sector and the Google Art Project from the private sector – each one in terms of content volume and user exposure holds a pre-eminent position among its (Internet) peers. These initiatives, however, are disruptive, both as regards business methods and legal systems, challenging traditional notions and treading at the borders of well-established legal principles and long-serving rules and regulations. This article discusses the legal issues raised by the contemporary aggregation initiatives of museum content over the Internet, by reference to the above two initiatives. Questions relating to copyright, the sui generis database right, as well as, the issues of systems’ interoperability, public sector information and restitution will be addressed in the analysis that follows.
Keywords: Data, Protection
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