Museums Protest Exhibition-Killing Copyright Ruling By US Court

by Bill Davenport July 11, 2012

The Dallas Museum of Art has joined the Association of Museum Directors, LACMA, MOCA, MOMA, the Getty, and many other museums in opposing a recent ruling by the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit that removes copyright protections for works created outside the United States. In a bizarre counter-intuitive twist (revealed on page ten of their 37-page  brief) it seems that for purposes of copyright law, even original, one-of-a-kind works of art are considered copies.

Here’s the rub: museums and other people who own, or borrow, physical artworks are specifically allowed by law to display them publicly, despite the fact that they do not own the copyright. The new decision limits this explicit permission to display to art created in the United States. Museums fear that by displaying artworks produced elsewhere (even originals), they could be subject to lawsuits for copyright infringement. Big problem, or is it just nervous institutions covering their bases? Copyright lawyers, feel free to comment . . .

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