As I hope you know, I’m a big admirer of what you’ve led at SMK and how SMK has led the sector in many good directions.
I may have been unclear in my writing. To me the point is really not about the desirability of charging fees for images and much more about whether museums should be pressured too much to build and maintain all of the desirable digital infrastructure (and content building) that supports this and other digital desiderata. I just don’t want museums to feel that they are the bad guys if they can’t do all of this. So, I don’t want to come across as arguing “whether The Met’s decision to stop charging for their digitised images is viable in a time of financial constraint.” Most efforts to charge fees (thank you @SimonTanner) cost more in hidden costs than they ever bring in. (I would be open to charging fees for commercial use if efficient outsourced distributers do the fulfillment but that’s one relatively uninformed opinion and not my real point).
My real point is that until there is more funding to support this work, many museums may have to go slower than enthusiastic people would like them to go. Such is the way with all mission goods. My deeper hope is that shared technology solutions can make much more of this possible in fiscally responsible ways that lower costs rather than aim for magical revenues and I will continue to bang my head against that appealing but difficult to carry out proposition.
Best — James