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“A time is marked not so much by ideas that are argued about as by ideas that are taken for granted. The character of an era hangs upon what needs no defence. Power runs with ideas that only the crazy would draw into doubt. The “taken for granted” is the test of sanity; “what everyone knows” is the line between us and them."
Lawrence Lessig, The Future of Ideas, 2001

The theme of Sharing is Caring 2012 – “Let’s Get Real!” – was a call to action aimed as much at ourselves as at others. For some years we had focused our efforts on digital projects that had made us aware of the potential in opening up new ways of using our digitised collections, and new kinds of dialogue and interaction with the wider world.

“What can you do today?” This question was posed by Michael Edson when SMK’s management team took counsel with him on open image licences in the autumn of 2011. At that point we did not have the digital infrastructure necessary to release large quantities of digitised images. Our digitised collections were still stored in a closed image database, and there was a lack of indexing to enable user-friendly search. Nevertheless, we could get started on a smaller scale. The answer to Edson’s question was to take a small selection of highlights – ranging from the Italian Renaissance and Dutch 17th century art to the Danish Golden Age and early Modernism – and translate this small, but exquisite sample of the collections into a pilot project on the use of open licences.

The objective of the pilot was to explore the consequences we could expect when moving away from conventional image sales to a policy of free access. Its outcome was to be measured using three parameters:

1. Would there be an increase in the general exposure and familiarity with the SMK collections?
2. Might new, valuable ways of using the freely available images arise?
3. Would the museum lose profits from photo sales?


In June 2011 SMK was invited to contribute to the Google Art Project – Google’s portal to world art. Google was planning to relaunch the Art Project website featuring a wide range of new museum partners.*41 The invitation prompted important internal deliberations at SMK: If we signed the contract with Google we would be transferring the use rights of professional photographic images of artworks in a publicly funded museum to a private company, effectively entering into a public-private partnership (PPP). In recent years such partnerships have offered state-subsidised cultural institutions the opportunity to mass-digitise huge collections rapidly and efficiently, and to become part of vast presentation and distribution platforms that few publicly funded museums have the capacity to develop themselves.

But the implications of such partnerships need careful consideration. For the private enterprise offering to shoulder the task of digitisation and presentation for public GLAM institutions must also see some return on their investment. [49] In the case of the Google Art Project, Google wished to reserve the right to use the SMK images on all present and future Google platforms. One of the key issues discussed at SMK was the fact that Google Art Project users would not be allowed to download images from the website, using them as they saw fit; they would only be able to look at them and interact with them on Google’s own platform and using Google’s own tools. In other words, Google Art Project is a “walled garden” that prevents users from re-using images and data on their own premises. Was it admissible for us, as a public, tax-funded institution, to transfer the rights of use of our high-resolution images to a private enterprise? Free public access to SMK’s physical collections was introduced in 2006. In the age of the Internet, it seemed an obvious choice to extend that free access to the digitised collections. The collections have been acquired by the state and belong to the public. [50] If the rights of use were to be shared, they ought to be shared with everyone.

Financial incentives

In addition to the ethical arguments there were also financial incentives for introducing free access. As had already been indicated by the pilot project on image sharing, money could be saved by transitioning from analogue, closed image licensing to a digital and open format. As far back as 2004 a study of business models for image licensing among US art museums had proven, what William Noel of the University of Pennsylvania calls “an open secret” within the cultural sector [51]; the fact that the vast majority of museums lose money on traditional photo sales; none can demonstrate a profit once the cost of administration and operation are included in the calculations.*42 [52]

So why are museums not jumping at the chance to change their policies, adopting more profitable business models? Of course museums have a real need for covering the costs of digitising their collections. However, several researchers within the field point out a general lack of documentation that museums are actually using income from photo sales to fund new digitisation – or even that they can defray their digitisation costs via conventional photo sales.*43 Conversely, there is substantial documentation that museums are losing money on expensive administrative workflows and the inefficient manual operations associated with them. This ought to prompt the museum sector to take a closer look at their established business models – and particularly at the ideologies that cause them to be upheld. Only rarely do financial motives stand alone when museums maintain their closed licensing models and demand payment for usage of their images. The three most important reasons given by museums for their decision to employ traditional image licences are:

1. Profits from photo sales (in order to fund new digitisation)
2. Protecting photo rights (to protect sources of income for the museum)
3. Controlling how reproductions of original artworks are used (to protect the integrity of the artist and the artwork).

Out of these three, the desire to protect the integrity of the work is regarded as the most compelling argument for museums. [53]

Digital vs. analogue

The fundamental difference between analogue and digital images gives rise to a new set of challenges for museums. If you have an analogue image and share it – give it to someone else – you no longer have it yourself. If you have a digital image and share it, you still keep a copy that is exactly the same. Copying digital formats is extremely easy, which means you cannot control and monitor digital images as easily as their analogue counterparts. We can, of course, try to control the use of digital images, but realistically any such endeavour is doomed to fail. [54] At the same time, restricting access to digitised collections will significantly reduce their online visibility and, hence, demand for their contents. As several museums have already found, offering open access to their digitised collections can have great potential, allowing them to develop new business models on top of this free service. [55]

As far as the protection of the work’s artistic integrity is concerned, it may seem natural to restrict and control the circulation and use of reproductions. Many museums require people to describe what they will use their images for, and to pay for the use. However, as soon as the digital image file has left the museum it can potentially be copied and shared ad infinitum – not because the users are dishonest or have criminal intentions, but for the simple reason that digital media allow for this possibility.

To provide an example: A user purchases a digital image file from a museum in order to use it in a PowerPoint presentation. The user shares her presentation on Slideshare. Another user downloads the presentation, likes the museum’s image, and posts it on his blog. One of the blog’s readers embeds the image on her Facebook page, where it is viewed by 20 friends. Three of those friends share the image with their network, etc. In just a few moments the original image file has been shared hundreds of times, and no museum has the capacity to monitor the digital spread, nor to take action against users who, knowingly or otherwise, contribute to the chain reaction. Digital media act like water – they find a way. [56]

What is more, this example of how digital images spread only extends to the museum’s own official photographs of their artworks. Another dimension concerns the users’ own digital photographs of objects on display in museums. With the advent of smartphones, the number of people with instant access to a camera has exploded. Even though many museums continue to enforce a “no photography” policy, no museum will ever have enough guards to fully prevent digital pictures of their exhibits from being taken. And the cameras used are effectively placed within sophisticated handheld mini-computers that make it easy to share one’s pictures on the Internet where they can spread at lightning speed.*44

[57] The case of “the yellow milkmaid” has lent its name to a Europeana publication about the potential for the cultural heritage sector in adopting open licenses: “‘The Milkmaid’, one of Johannes Vermeer’s most famous pieces, depicts a scene of a woman quietly pouring milk into a bowl. During a survey the Rijksmuseum discovered that there were over 10,000 copies of the image on the internet – mostly poor, yellowish reproductions. As a result of all of these low-quality copies on the web, according to the Rijksmuseum, “people simply didn’t believe the postcards in our museum shop were showing the original painting. This was the trigger for us to put high-resolution images of the original work with open metadata on the web ourselves. Opening up our data is our best defence against the ‘yellow Milkmaid’”.”

(Verwayen, Arnoldus & Kaufmann, 2011).
Johannes Vermeer, The Milkmaid, ca. 1657-58. SK-A-2344. Rijksmuseum Amsterdam.


Constructive action

Museums may choose to bemoan the situation, claiming that the Internet is teeming with lawbreakers. They can use watermarks and legal action to try to staunch the Internet’s culture of sharing. However, there is much to suggest that such endeavours are as fruitless as fighting windmills. Instead, they could choose to realise that evolution cannot be stopped and try to turn the situation to their own advantage. At the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam they have chosen the latter option. Studies had shown that the Internet was flooded by thousands of poor copies of the museum’s famous Vermeer painting The Milkmaid – a hodgepodge of amateur snapshots, scans from art books and postcards, and the like. This meant that people did not “believe” the museum’s authoritative reproductions of the artwork. As a result, the Rijksmuseum decided to release their own highresolution images for use on the Internet. [57] The objective was to “flush out the poor copies”, replacing them with true and accurate reproductions instead. [58]

In doing so the Rijksmuseum is in keeping with the official line laid down by Europeana in its Public Domain Charter, which identifies the public domain as a fundamental precondition for society’s social and economic wellbeing:

• The Public Domain must be preserved
• A healthy Public Domain is essential to the social and economic wellbeing of society
• Digitisation of Public Domain knowledge does not create new rights over it *45 [59]

An efficient tool to help prevent improper or undesired use of museum collections is to employ user-friendly open licences that clearly state what users can and cannot do with the images. Creative Commons is the most widespread open license system. Creative Commons offers an alternative to the inflexibility of traditional copyright. Simply put, it is a matter of “some rights reserved” instead of “all rights reserved”. Creative Commons is a global system comprising four elements that can be combined in various constellations to form six basic licences to match each right owner’s wishes and needs. For example, an artist may allow others to share and use reproductions of her work privately as long as she is credited, but still claim exclusive rights to use the work commercially (Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial or CC BY-NC). Or she can allow others to process her picture and make money from derived works while also requiring that derived works are licensed on equal terms (Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike or CC BY-SA). In addition to the six basic licences the Creative Commons system offers two other options, CC0 (Creative Commons Zero) that dedicates copyrighted material to the public domain, and the Public Domain Mark that clearly indicates that a work of art is already in the public domain.*46 [60]

There is a clear dividing line between artworks in the public domain and copyrighted works of art. But considering the international GLAM sector, there are millions of artworks and objects that have long since become exempt from copyright and are in the public domain. When digitised, such collections can heighten the overall quality of the Internet’s freely available cultural heritage resources – provided that they are opened up to free sharing and re-use.

[59] At the Open Knowledge Festival in Helsinki, September 2012, Europeana’s Deputy Director Harry Verwayen announced that the entire dataset of Europeana was given over to the Public Domain (PD).
CC BY 4.0 Merete Sanderhoff


Over the course of just a few years, a number of international art collections have introduced policies of free access to their digitised collections in the public domain.47 In connection with SMK’s decision-making process we explored how some of them use open licences. These entirely informal studies show that the matter is addressed in very different ways. Here I will briefly review four examples that have particularly influenced SMK’s choice of an open licence.

1. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

The Rijksmuseum has established itself as a beacon of openness by transferring 125,000 high-resolution images of noncopyrighted works to the public domain. The Rijksmuseum is home to one of the largest and most important art collections in Europe, a fact which lends particular significance to their decision. [61] With the launch of Rijksstudio – a creative hub on the museum’s new website – the Rijksmuseum has taken on the role as catalyst for the user’s creativity. Here, users are encouraged to create their own personal collections and to share, download, remix, and reuse images, e.g. in collages, tattoos, and music videos. The Rijksmuseum calls on users to “touch” the images and do things with them, because – as the museum’s Director of Collections Taco Dibbits says – it is when you get close to the works, process them, and cut out details, that you truly remember them.*48 What is more, the museum has released their collection data through an API that allows the data to be downloaded and used by external developers and programmers free of charge. More than 30 new applications based on the Rijksmuseum dataset have been developed, offering external perspectives on how the museum’s collection can be used. [62] This places the Rijksmuseum among the most progressive art museums of the digital age.

However, a certain lack of consistency has been weighing down the Rijksmuseum’s open access policy for a period of time. The API provides free access to the complete dataset, which bears the CC0 licence, as well as to 125,000 images of works in the public domain in high resolution. In Rijksstudio, however, there was from the outset a curious restriction on the download of image files, prescribing that they could only be downloaded for “personal use”. Users encountering the Rijksmuseum’s images on this platform were thus given the impression that the images were limited to private use (equivalent of a CC BY-NC license) which directly contradicts their status as public domain. After continued critique from OpenGLAM experts in the Netherlands and abroad as well as pressure from Europeana, this restriction was removed in October 2013, one year after the launch of Rijksstudio. And the images have now been made available in extremely high resolution and quality.

2. Yale University, New Haven

In May 2011 Yale University’s museums, libraries, and archives announced a policy of open access that set new standards for openness in the international cultural sector. A decision was made to transfer all images of non-copyrighted works in their collections – numbering more than 250,000 – to the public domain. The decision was based on the belief that open access would be the best way of supporting the Yale mission in the digital age. [63]

Even so, Yale University’s 20 individual collections hold images and archivalia that are subject to very different stages of digital accessibility. Even though Yale’s official policy makes the images part of the public domain, this does not mean that all 250,000 images can now be downloaded via the Internet. Many items have not been recorded digitally and cannot be found in Internet searches – making this happen will require years of work – but the policy is clear. As yet, the Yale Center for British Art is one of the collections that best demonstrates the intentions within Yale’s policy of open access.*49

3. National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.
In March 2012 another major US art collection, the National Gallery of Art, followed suit by launching NGA Images: more than 20,000 high-resolution images of works in the public domain. With their open policy the NGA hopes to ensure the continued relevance of their collections through active usage, and like the Rijksmuseum they hope to eliminate the poor reproductions of the museum’s works online, gradually causing them to be replaced by high-quality authoritative versions. [64]

The launch of NGA Images was also prompted by financial concerns. A cost-benefit analysis of image transactions between the NGA and another giant among US museums, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, revealed that the two museums, who were by far each other’s main customers, paid each other almost identical amounts every year for using each other’s images. This became a decisive argument prompting both museums to adopt a new, more lenient image licensing policy.*50

4. Walters Art Museum, Baltimore
A final example of what has informed SMK’s decision to start the transition towards open access is provided by the Walters Art Museum, an American collection of artworks and artefacts ranging from South-East Asian sculptures to medieval manuscripts and European 19th century painting. Images of those parts of the collections that are not under copyright have consistently been transferred to the public domain – excepting images of threedimensional objects that are under the CC BY-SA licence – and can be downloaded from the website with a single click. The quality of images available for download, however, is fluctuating.

The Walters’ reason for adopting an open access policy is that the museum is a public institution funded by taxpayer’s money, which means that they should return the resources, for which the public has paid, to the public. The museum also emphasises that this is not just a matter of ethics and generosity. According to The Walters it simply makes more sense to adopt an open access policy in the digital age – in terms of marketing as well as from a strictly business-related point of view. [65]

Inconsistent use of open licences

Frontrunners such as the institutions listed above have set new standards for image licensing in the cultural sector, and judging by the growing list of OpenGLAM collections we have only seen the early beginnings of the paradigm shift they is heralding. However, their different ways of using open licences is a sign that this is an area where the cultural sector is venturing into uncharted terrain, making its progress through trial and error – as is true of digital technologies in general. Up until now, there is no established practice on how cultural institutions handle licensing of digitised works in the public domain, and as has been demonstrated in the above the open licences are applied and graded in variable ways.

As mentioned, Europeana’s Public Domain charter clearly states that digitisation of works in the public domain should not lead to new restrictions on the digital copies. None the less, such practices are still widespread. And even though Creative Commons licences should in principle only be applied to copyrighted works – as an alternative to copyright – they are frequently applied to works that legally belong in the public domain and so should bear no license of any kind.*51 At its heart this discussion is both legal and ethical in nature. The question of how open licensing should be utilised and interpreted is not yet resolved, no answers have been carved in stone, and even though it is possible to point to certain discrepancies it is nevertheless definite progress for the usability of cultural heritage that we are moving towards “some rights reserved” rather than “all rights reserved”.

Regardless of choice of licensing, it is crucial to clearly communicate all rights and restrictions pertaining to the usage of the images. One of the advantages of the Creative Commons licences is that they relieve users of the burden of tracking down the rightsholders to ask for specific permission to use a work. The licence states – in plain language and in machine-readable code – what you can and cannot do. This saves a lot of timeconsuming labour for users and institutions alike. Users also benefit from having many institutions and artists use the same system. It increases the chances that people recognise and are familiar with the licences and what they entail – and it reduces the risk that they become lost in a jungle of different license types or misinterpret the rightsholders’ injunctions.*52

SMK’s first ventures into Creative Commons

In recent years SMK’s photographers have been far-sighted in their work digitising the museum’s collections. They have created one of the museum’s most important assets – thousands of high quality digital images – but so far we have been shutting this asset away, preventing it from having its full potential impact on present-day media terms. This informed SMK’s decision to test the Creative Commons Attribution licence (CC BY) on the body of images we contributed to the Google Art Project.*53

For practical reasons we had – like most other museums participating in the Google Art Project – exclusively contributed works belonging to the public domain, thereby evading the need to handle moral rights issues involving a commercial third party.

During the decision-making process we carefully considered all the various Creative Commons licences, gradually moving from leaning towards the most restrictive licence – Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No-Derivatives (CC BY- NC-ND), which does not allow any commercial use nor any derivative works – to ultimately choose the least restrictive of the licences, CC BY, which allows for all kinds of usage, including commercial use, as long as the source of the image is credited. The explanation for this gradual movement along the scale of openness was a growing awareness of what we would miss out on by choosing a more restrictive licence. One of the objectives for trying out open licences with SMK’s works was to encourage users to share our images via social media. We also wanted the Wikimedia Commons to harvest our images, enabling them to be used in Wikipedia – the most used encyclopaedia in the world, consulted by millions of users every day. Wikipedia has a high ranking within the Google search hierarchy and consistently links back to the original source of the image. So when Wikimedia harvests SMK’s images we can harvest another benefit in turn: the museum’s artworks will get a higher ranking in Google searches. Both of these objectives required us to use CC BY-SA or CC BY at the least; otherwise it would not be possible to share our images in Wikipedia and several other social media platforms.*54

Why did SMK choose the CC BY license instead of consequently handing over our images of public domain artworks to the public domain with a CC0 dedication or Public Domain Mark? Being a research-based art museum, we wished to make users aware that using credits is crucial for enabling others to discover the original source. [66]

At SMK we created a very simple solution. The images included in the Google Art Project have been made available for free download in high-resolution equipped with the CC BY licence. A simple right-click allows you to download a large image file to your own computer, while a left-click lets you read a userfriendly explanation of the CC BY licence. We only had few months and no separate budget to create a technical solution that would be able to handle downloads of large image files through our current CMS system. For this reason the technical solution is very simple, but functional nevertheless. The image files are linked to existing pages with information about the museum’s highlights; pages that include brief introductory texts and videos. All that we needed to produce was an introductory page about free downloads, a page about the CC BY licence, and finally a zip file allowing you to download all of the images as one compressed file.*55

Initial results

Free download at was introduced on 18 April 2012. After a year (May 2013) we can cautiously conclude that the three criteria employed to measure the success of the venture all show a positive trend.

1.Do we see greater exposure of SMK’s collections and brand?
The page offering free download of SMK’s highlights has proven a major attraction on the website. The page became the 14th most visited of all SMK pages in 2012 and attracts a very different kind of traffic than the rest of the site. Many external sites and blogs link to the page, and in 2012 more than 7,400 visitors had downloaded one or more works. The geographic distribution of these users shows that SMK has achieved a significant international branding effect by making images freely available for download. More than 34% of these downloads are made from abroad – mostly from the US, UK, Italy, Russia, and Germany.*56

SMK has established a position – in Denmark and abroad – as one of the early adopters of open licences in the museum world. Making high-quality and high-resolution images available has prompted greater interest from important international collaborators such as Europeana, the Open Knowledge Foundation, and Creative Commons, and it has placed SMK in the same category as important foreign collections that employ open licences.

2. Do the open images give rise to new, valuable forms of usage?

SMK’s open images are shared and reused in new contexts, for example as textile prints, Images in blog entries, and as part of artistic remixes shared via social media. As was expected, the Wikimedia Commons has harvested the museum’s open images, and Wikipedia Denmark has assigned two wikipedians to prepare articles about the works, the artists behind them, and related topics.*57 On Wikipedia, SMK’s images are at the time of writing shown a total of 731 times on 544 separate Wikipedia pages written in 27 languages – a notable effect based on the small body of images released by SMK so far. *58 Images from SMK are used to illustrate articles on subjects from ancient mythology in Indonesian, Arabic, and Hebrew, entries on the “Man of Sorrows” motif in German and Spanish, a French article on trompe l’oeil painting, and the article on Camille Saint Saëns’ opera Samson et Dalila on the English Wikipedia page. One of the most promising new forms of usage of SMK images concerns their use in Danish schools. Now, these images are ready to be integrated into the schools’ digital education tools, making it easy for pupils and students to find and use the images – and to provide the correct credits when doing so. [67]

3. Is SMK losing income generated by photo sales?
Like many other museums SMK has not carried out a costbenefit analysis of its traditional business model for photo sales that includes the costs of administration and salaries. Hence we have no firm basis for assessing the true financial consequences of open licensing. We can, however, ascertain that the total external sales of photographs has not diminished since the museum released images for free download in April 2012. Rather, it has increased slightly.*59 It would seem, then, that the income generated by photo sales has not been affected by the fact that some of the museum’s most popular pictures are now available for free download – in spite of the fact that the SMK photo department consistently refers users who enquire about the open images to the download page at While we are not sure why, this might suggest that the greater exposure of the collections prompted by the use of open licences brings more traffic to the website, which in turn generates added sales of SMK images, many of which are still licensed traditionally. Concurrently with the introduction of a general open access policy on all SMK’s digitized collections in the public domain we will closely monitor the development in traffic to, traffic sources, and new use forms that create exposure and branding of the museum on other platforms.

Overall we can conclude that we have seen a great impact from releasing just a small body of open images. This suggests that volume is not necessarily crucial; equally important is the strong message sent by taking a definite step towards a policy of open access.

A hole in the wall

With the decision to make SMK’s contribution to the Google Art Project a collection of free images available to the general public we have sought to create a small hole in the “walled garden” of the Google Art Project. In so doing we wished to signal that presenting art digitally gains in value and impact by using open licences – this being true from the perspective of the users as well as the museums.

When selecting which SMK artwork should be the museum’s giga-pixel image in the Google Art Project, we chose to involve the users directly in the decision-making process.*60 We arranged a public poll on Google+ and Facebook, listing ten candidates from our collections that users could vote for. We then left it up to a democratic voting process to determine which work the Google specialists should digitise in extreme high resolution format. Over the course of the two-week voting process we received 1,652 votes from individuals in 20 nations.*61And the voters did more than vote; they also commented on the various works of art, discussed what they were about, and helped each other find sources for the subjects depicted in the artworks.*62 The winner of the poll was L.A. Ring’s painting Whitewashing the Old House from 1908, which made this painting part of the body of open images, thereby bringing the total tally to 160 high-resolution images. [68] Compared with the Rijksmuseum’s or Yale’s open collections this is indeed “starting small” but it is a start.

[68] The winner of SMK’s Google gigapixel poll was L. A. Ring’s painting Whitewashing the old house (1908). KMS4223. Experience the image in gigapixel resolution at Google Cultural Institute: and download it at

The Google Art Project has applauded and promoted SMK’s initiatives to create greater openness and inclusion within the framework provided by their platform. The Google Art Project’s walled garden culture can be seen as an expression of the fact that the project represents a collaboration between many different institutions with different attitudes to sharing digitised materials. Critics have pointed out that Google has as yet neglected the opportunity to use the Art Project to encourage a general willingness among cultural institutions worldwide to open up their collections, letting them form part of the Internet’s open remix culture.*63 The Art Project could, as an extremely attractive platform for museums across the globe and in keeping with Google’s overall policies, actively advocate open licensing of art collections, thereby flinging open the gates to the walled garden. Having said that, the Google Art Project has – by making it compulsory for all museum partners to contribute highresolution images – successfully demonstrated the tremendous difference that large, highresolution image files makes for the digital appreciation of art, thereby raising the bar for online museum communication. [69]


*40  This entire section is endebted to Michael Edson’s generous knowledge sharing, sparring and advice in these areas. See e.g. +and+Image+Sales+References

*41  The Google Art Project was first launched to the public on 1 February 2011, at which point it comprised approximately 1,000 works from 17 major museums. An expanded and updated version was launched on 3 April 2012, featuring 151 partners and more than 30,000 works of art. SMK contributed 159 works from the Royal Collection of Paintings and Sculptures, and the Royal Collection of Graphic Art
As of May 2013 the Google Art Project comprises more than 40,000 works of art from 230 collections

*42  According to Tanner and Hamma, museums rarely include operating costs when calculating the income/profits generated by photo sales. This is also true of SMK. The museum’s annual report only lists the income generated by photo sales without offsetting the administrative and operational costs associated with such sales.

*43  Tanner, 2004; Hamma, 2005; Kelly, 2013.

*44  This is prompting an increasing number of museums to change their ban on photography, turning the users’ photographs into a positive aspect of their marketing. See e.g. Miranda, 2013

*45  From a press release, 25 May 2010: “Europeana Public Domain Charter: libraries, museums and archives support Europe’s heritage” Europeana aggregates data and content from more than 2,300 museums, libraries, and archives within the European member states. In September of 2012 Europeana transferred its aggregated data, comprising more than 20 million units, to the public domain by assigning the Creative Commons dedication CC0.
See and

*46  Read more about the Creative Commons licenses and how to apply them at and in Martin von Haller Grønbæk’s article p. 141 ff.

*47  The term "open access policy" is widely used in the international GLAM sector, including by the museums featured in this section. SMK has primarily looked to the USA for inspiration, a notable exception being the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. The reason is simple: as yet only relatively few art collections have adopted open licences on a grand scale, and the most far-reaching cases can be found in the US. If we take a wider view of the GLAM scene we find many more examples of institutions that employ open licences. The global nonprofit grassroots movement Open Knowledge Foundation is compiling a list of “OpenGLAM” institutions (i.e. institutions that apply open licences to their digital content), and SMK is featured on this list

*48  See e.g. embedded&v=5MzgijfLV-E#!
and Segal, 2013 share&_r=3&


*50 With the relaunch of their website in October 2011, the Metropolitan Museum also introduced free access to download of almost 200,000 high-resolution images, albeit for non-commercial personal use only. On paper it would appear that The Met has a more restrictive image licensing policy than NGA, but in practise it is as easy to download their high-resolution images, if not easier. A clearly visible download button allows users to download the image file with a single click. It is, however, difficult to find the museum’s terms of use; these are hidden deep within the website’s information architecture, far away from the pages where the images are available for download.
In practice this makes it very difficult for users to act legally correct. This example accentuates the importance of clearly indicating the nature of the licences applied to digital images – partly to ensure that the rules are adhered to, and partly to avoid implicating the users in inadvertent rule-breaking.

*51  See Martin von Haller, Grønbæk’s article p. 141 ff.

*52  Alastair Dunning from The European Library elaborates on this in a blog entry about the dangers of license proliferation:

*53 A brief explanatory note may be in order: SMK has applied the CC BY licence to high-resolution JPG files of images to which the museum holds all photographic rights. The licence has nothing to do with the original works – they are in the public domain – and does not extend to photographic representations of the artworks taken by others. During our decision-making process SMK received advice from lawyer Martin von Haller Grønbæk, co-founder of Creative Commons Danmark, and Lars Lundqvist from Riksantikvarieämbetet in Sweden, which has used Creative Commons licences for Swedish collections since 2008. They have both contributed essays to this anthology.

*54  Social media are usually commercial companies which is why images with non-commercial restrictions cannot be shared on those. The rules of Wikipedia are based on the notion that all material must be free to reuse and edit by anyone, also for commercial purposes, as long as the rightsholder is attributed. For an overview of which licences are compatible with Wikipedia, see:

*55 Introduction to free download of SMK images
Introduction to the CC BY licence
A few weeks after the original launch we split the single zip file into three separate files as numerous users experienced difficulties in down- loading such a large quantity of data at once.
At the time when SMK applied open licences to a selection of publicly accessible images the museum also decided to abolish its in-house fee scheme for the use of photos (see note 19). As of 1 January 2012 the various museum departments no longer pay the SMK photo department for using images of the museum’s own artworks, e.g. on the museum website.

*56  Statistics from Google Analytics (10 April 2013)

*57  Wikipedia SMK project

*58  Statistics from GLAMorous (13. juni 2013)

*59  DIn 2011 the total revenue generated by external photo sales was 404,477 DKK ($74,398); in 2012 the corresponding figure was 464,496 DKK ($85,437). This tendency is consistent with the experience of other museums that have implemented open access policies for their digitised collections (Kelly, 2013).

*60  The Google Art Project offers its partners the opportunity to have one work in their collection recorded by means of specialist photographic equipment that makes it possible to create extremely large images with a resolution of several billion pixels.

*61  People from 20 nations across the world voted and commented on the candidates: India, Russia, China, Colombia, Libya, Spain, Mexico, Turkey, South Africa, the Philippines, Indonesia, United Kingdom, Germany, Nigeria, USA, New Zealand, Finland, Sweden, France, and Denmark. View the 10 candidates here:
Read about the winner here:

*62  See an example from 21 November 2012, where two young men from South Africa and the Philippines discuss Peter Paul Rubens’ painting The Judgement of Solomon. oid=105034210144513295597
Who would have guessed that the collections of the Danish national gallery have potential users in the Philippines or in South Africa? Young people, so-called “digital natives”, with the knowledge and tools to navigate in a global visual culture. The vote on SMK’s gigapixel photo gave us a bit of insight into the effect of “the long tail” (p. 48 ff.). Our collections can become relevant and meaningful to entirely new user groups, when we put them where the users are and encourage dialogue. This tiny experiment showed us, that the use of open licenses and a presence

*63  The problematic implications associated with entering the Google Art Project were discussed at Museums Computer Network in 2012:

Updated: 26.apr.2018
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