Copyright & Open Access for GLAMs in the age of COVID-19: a conversation

Apr 6, 2020 · 15 min read
Dante Gabriel Rossetti, La Donna Della Finestra, 1881. Birmingham Museums Trust, CC0

Featuring Andrea Wallace, Ariadna Matas and Sarah Pearson

What can be shared from the collection of my institution at this moment?

Short answer: it depends! Rely on existing limitations and exceptions, fair use and open licensing.

Are you a GLAM institution working in the US? Remember you can always check the College Art Association “Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for the Visual Arts”, developed with the help of Peter Jaszi and Patricia Aufderheide from the American University. Available here, with amazing accompanying materials. Still have questions? Join the Special Interest Group on Intellectual Property of the Museum Computer Network here and drop a line; if you are in Europe consider joining the Europeana’s Copyright Community.

A virtual tour through the world’s museums, using the data from Google Arts & Culture, in the Virtual Museums website.

Can I do a digital exhibit of an author that is alive, an author in the public domain, and an author that died a while ago but is still not out of copyright? What kind of solution would be good for this?

Short answer: it depends! Consider partnering with other institutions, or even with the Google Cultural Institute.

What is the role of fair use and limitations and exceptions in this context?

Can the GLAM sector push for something similar to the Public Statement of Library Copyright Specialists: Fair Use & Emergency Remote Teaching & Research or Internet Archive’s Emergency Library?

Image from the Social Distancing GIFs from Europeana.
The social media campaign launched by the Getty Museum to recreate public domain works in your house.

My museum is running a social media campaign to encourage people to engage with us by creating their own content. What should we do with the copyright of the content that people are sharing with us?

Short answer: consider a CC license. Watch the Terms of Use of the platforms you are using. Consider changing the Terms of Use of your website for user generated content.

Do you want to understand better how to offer your users the option to apply a CC license? Check the Creative Commons FAQ and the CC Certificate resources that give an in-depth explanation of the licenses. Contact Creative Commons at, or join #cc-openglam on Slack.

Is this the time to implement an Open Access Policy?

Short answer: No. But you can start the conversation.

Do you want a conversation starter for Open Access? Read Anne Young’s series of posts on “How to Open GLAM”, Karin Glasemann’s “Inside the Museum is outside the Museum”, and the “Open GLAM survey”. Want more food for thought? Explore all the great content of our Medium Publication or write us at

The girl I left behind me, by Eastman Johnson (1824–1906), Smithsonian American Art Museum, CC0.

I already have an Open Access policy and a digital engagement strategy, what’s up for me?

Short answer: collaborate by collecting data and generating metrics that help build the case for others.

What changes did your institution had to made out of the COVID19 crisis? Help us document them here (you can leave links in the Talk page if you’re not familiar with editing Wikipedia) or get in touch with Liam Wyatt!

So what happens when the dust settles? What are your thoughts for the future?


Global insights into open access and cultural heritage


Open GLAM presents global perspectives on open access to the cultural heritage in Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums (GLAMs). Submissions are welcome so please get in touch.


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openglam, digitization, open licensing stuff


Open GLAM presents global perspectives on open access to the cultural heritage in Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums (GLAMs). Submissions are welcome so please get in touch.

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