Intellectual property

Artstor's approach to intellectual property rights mirrors its mission: to become a community-supported resource that enhances scholarship, teaching, and learning in the arts and associated fields. Artstor recognizes that this mission means balancing the interests of intellectual property owners with the value of making collections of digital images of artworks and related cataloging widely available for pedagogical and scholarly purposes.

The aggregation and distribution of art images can raise complex intellectual property rights issues. After considerable consultation with intellectual property experts, content owners, and potential users, Artstor believes that this terrain can be navigated in a way that benefits everyone and that makes these important resources widely available for educational and scholarly purposes.

For more information on Artstor's approach to intellectual property rights issues in the Artstor Digital Library, see our Statement of Intellectual Property Rights below.

Statement of Intellectual Property Rights

Artstor recognizes both the importance of respecting intellectual property rights and the significant needs of the educational community to have access to images of artworks and other content for teaching and study. Artstor's approach to intellectual property rights seeks to balance the interests of educational users, intellectual property rights' owners, and other content providers. Following extensive consultation with intellectual property experts and numerous content owners (including artists, photographers, museums, scholarly archives, and educational institutions), Artstor believes that these interests can be appropriately taken into account in ways that benefit everyone. Several principles guide Artstor's efforts to achieve this balance.

  • First, Artstor will limit access to, and the uses that may be made of, the images and scholarly information in the Artstor database. Artstor will not distribute the high-resolution images in the Artstor Digital Library on an open, unrestricted website. Instead, the only institutions that will have access to the database will be non-profit institutions and individual scholars and artists. Users will be required to abide by terms and conditions of use, restricting uses of the images to those that are noncommercial, educational, and scholarly in nature. Users who seek to make commercial uses of the images will be required to seek permission from the appropriate rights' holders, and — to the extent practicable — Artstor will seek to facilitate those permissions by providing contact information for rights' holders. Additionally, Artstor will employ technology to facilitate authentication (assuring that users are authorized members of a participating institution) and authorization (confirming that legitimate users have approval to gain access to any particular resource) before users can make certain uses of the database.
  • Second, Artstor itself will not make commercial uses of the content in the Artstor Digital Library. Artstor's sole objective in creating and making available the database is to benefit education and scholarship. Artstor is a non-profit organization and not a commercial entity. While Artstor will charge institutions fees for use of the Artstor repository, these fees will only be used to support the operations of Artstor and to build content for the Library.
  • Third, Artstor will rely on a variety of approaches to obtain content for the Artstor Digital Library. In some instances, Artstor will collaborate directly on projects with content owners and rights' holders. In other instances, it may only seek permissions for use (rather than enter into a collaboration). In still other instances, it will rely on fair use and other educational exceptions to copyright laws. Where licensing content, Artstor will seek from content providers a nonexclusive, worldwide, royalty-free license to incorporate and make available content for restricted educational, noncommercial uses. To meet the teaching and research needs of users for a stable, reliable resource, Artstor will also seek ongoing licenses consistent with Artstor's objective of serving as a trusted, reliable resource for the educational community. Finally, should a rights' holder object to the use of an image for educational or scholarly purposes, Artstor would do its best to address any concern while also being prepared, in appropriate circumstances, to withdraw such an image.

In addition to taking steps to respect intellectual property rights, Artstor hopes that both users and content owners will derive significant benefits from the Artstor Digital Library.

Users will have ready access to a significant number of digital images in the arts, humanities and other areas, and related scholarly information from numerous collections, many of which would otherwise be unavailable or difficult to access. In addition, Artstor may reduce redundant efforts across institutions of higher education to digitize art images for teaching, or to build technology to support the display of such images. Finally, Artstor may be able to serve many institutions — including colleges, museums, and schools in this country and abroad — that have little or no access to slide libraries or to substantial art-book libraries. Increasing access of this kind is a significant goal of the Artstor Digital Library initiative.

Similarly, Artstor believes that intellectual property rights' holders and other content providers can derive significant benefits from Artstor. Artstor's educational and scholarly mission resonates with many rights' holders, and we work regularly with a significant number of museums, artists and artists' representatives, photographers, research archives, and other content providers. Many content providers see Artstor as a way of increasing the visibility of their holdings, of providing access to lesser known works, of helping fulfill their educational mission, and of providing educational institutions with access to images and data that can improve over time as technologies develop. Moreover, some rights' holders may receive "derivative benefits" through increased licensing fees should users of Artstor subsequently seek licenses from those rights' holders to make uses of images beyond those permitted in Artstor. Artstor also provides a mechanism for content owners and educational users to engage in dialogue on a range of subjects, including the importance of arts and humanities in the educational experience, visual literacy, and copyright.

In general, Artstor intends to work directly with different segments of the museum, education, and other communities in a variety of initiatives. We see both users and content providers as critical partners and we will continue to explore scalable ways to add to the Artstor collections, to solve common problems, and to develop community-wide benefits from new technologies.

We encourage people to visit Artstor's website periodically for updates, and to contact us at in the case of inquiries or suggestions.