When Cameras Inside Museums Are Forbidden: Web 2.0 and Copyrights

Among the main qualities of Web 2.0 I like most are that it is: diverse, creative, generous, laid-back, useful, and contradictory. Today I will focus on the two last topics: usefulness and paradoxes.

As in all Guggenheim Foundation Museums, Guggenheim-Bilbao Museum does not allow visitors taking pictures or recording videos inside the building. This policy maybe had any relation with art works’ copyright or more probable indeed, with Frank Gehry‘s copyright and any possible commercial use of the Guggenheim Foundation images. However, it is my belief that this policy is pretty outdated, moreover, it is unfair for visitors and it definitively works against the institution itself.

Since visitors are paying their entrance to the building, any potential copyright issue should be considered part of the ticket fare, as it could be the case regarding museum’s maintenance expenses, personnel, etc. That used to be why visitors get upset whenever they realize of the banning of using cameras inside the Guggenheim Museums: because they had already paid the ticket and they do not want to pay two times for the same thing.

Maybe you were right now thinking that this is because of artists’ copyright reasons and that artists should be paid back in case of any audiovisual dissemination of their work. Of course that is something I absolutely agree with, but ideally this should be previously negotiated between the museum and the artists themselves without meaning any trouble for visitors. It should be a real issue if the Guggenheim Foundation was not able to negotiate the rights of its temporary exhibitions, or even worse, if it did not hold the management and the payment of the rights of its own collection. Furthermore, the use of any hypothetical photographic reproductions of artworks would be the sole responsibility of the person who would disseminated them.

So let us think that the Foundation has under control all these copyrights. In that case, anybody could think that what really happens is because of a commercial strategy to control all images of the museum to further sell them, renting the space and/or the right to take images inside. In other words, the Guggenheim Foundation seems to be choosing exclusivity as its management policy, something that is really opposite to Web2.0 principles and new trends among general public and art museum’s visitors/users.

The video linked above is a fragment of the DVD Architectures, Vol. 4 (2005) produced by Facets Multimedia. I can guess that the company paid a good amount of money for being allowed to record inside both the building and behind the scenes. Although probably the original DVD holds any copyright, this documentary production is however available in Google Video, and it is free.

Despite its image quality is really bad, this online copy permits us to share its contents in this blog and to let some others to know and experiment the wonders of Guggenheim-Bilbao Museum. What is more, I am sure that after posting this video on e-artcasting, some of you will feel curious and willing to visit it (and paying the ticket.)

In the meanwhile, enjoy this interesting video available for downloading here.

PD. (Good news is short … and the video has been removed from the internet, probably because it violated the producer’s copyrights)



  1. >At the Brooklyn Museum, where we consider cultivating community and the community’s voice defining parts of our mission, we have been reaching out to our visitors through the use of Web 2.0 sites. In terms of photography, this has been a balancing act. We must restrict photography in special exhibition galleries because of lender agreements and copyright issues, but we do allow it in areas of the building where the objects are owned by the Museum. Basically, we allow non-commercial photography where we can – in our permanent collections, sculpture garden and public plaza. But it is important to point out, that this restriction is not just limited to our visitors. Even the Museum can’t use photos of some of the work on view without special permission from the copyright holder or the owner of the artwork.

  2. >Thanks, Brooklyn Museum, for your comment, but not only for that.We have always considered the Brooklyn Museum a gorgeous example of a museum’s relation with its community. We admire your attitude and online and off-line social policy. It is a pleasure how your museum goes to the places people is without loosing standards of quality (which seems to be the main fear about sociable technologies in museums,) moreover, reinforcing your mission.About your policy regarding cameras (we guess it is about not only photography but also video,)we simply agree with that. Of course, museums should copyrights and address lenders’ restrictions, whenever there would be. But if not, it is our belief that the proper policy is allowing -as you do- non-commercial photography.Congratulations, Brooklyn Museum, for your way of dealing with your public/community/users. In fact, we are some of them, even in the First Saturdays Evenings 😉

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s