Revised Report on Copyright Practices and Challenges of Museums

43 Pages Posted: 16 Sep 2019 Last revised: 15 Oct 2019

Date Written: November 16, 2018


This report intents to provide an in-depth analysis of copyright challenges of museums based on a field research. To that end, the report identified first the museum practices when fulfilling their missions based on the interviews of 37 museums of all types throughout the world, compared then these practices with the legal framework to identify the copyright challenges. When acquiring works of art and/or the attached copyrights, the report identified certain difficulties, in particular identify the copyright status of certain works (e.g. archival works containing several copyrighted works, or copyright status of digital copies of original works). When preserving works of art, most museums seem to make copies for preservation purposes, the key issue being to know whether the copies may grant access to third parties (so-called “dark archive“ or accessible archive). When they exhibit works, there are no major issues for exhibiting on-site, except for jurisdictions where the right to exhibit is part of the exclusive right of the copyright owner or for the cases of photo-shooting by visitors inside the premises. The communication of works is the most delicate issue, in particular when publishing exhibition catalogues or other educational materials (such as collection handbooks) or when museums go online, as each act requires the authorization of the rightholder, unless there are exception.

Suggested Citation

Benhamou, Yaniv, Revised Report on Copyright Practices and Challenges of Museums (November 16, 2018). Available at SSRN: or

Yaniv Benhamou (Contact Author)

University of Geneva ( email )

102 Bd Carl-Vogt
Genève, CH - 1205

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