The Art Gallery of Ontario, fresh off a disastrous series of press previews that banned photography of the new architecture being previewed, has now gone so far as to use its blog to lie to the public about its rights to photograph artworks.

The gallery will now graciously and generously “allow” you to photograph a staircase, but

[t]he relaxed policy on photographs cannot, however, extend to gallery spaces where artworks are installed, primarily due to copyright restrictions. While our visitors often point out that some other major art museums in the world allow photography of artwork, many of those collections are no longer subject to copyright restrictions, or are under different copyright rules than those in Canada.  We didn’t set the copyright rules but we are required to respect them. 

It is perfectly permissible to photograph copyrighted works, including artworks, for a number of purposes, including the five enumerated purposes of fair dealing (research or private study, criticism or review, and news reporting).

A staircase isn’t a copyrighted object or even a copyrightable object. We can photograph it all we want under copyright law, since such law has nothing to do with taking pictures of it. Meanwhile, while copyright law protects artists, it also protects photographers.

The authoress of the posting, Susan Bloch-Nevitte, needs to stop making such a big deal about “listening” to the public and start making more of a big deal about not lying to the public. There is no legal basis, at all, on which to ban photography of AGO’s collected artworks. It’s true the AGO is “required to respect” copyright law (it isn’t just a set of “rules”), and that means it cannot ban practices that amount to fair dealing.

We went through this already with OCA.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2009.01.14 15:03. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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None. I quit.

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