Interesting/crazy case of a museum photo policy being waaay too aggressive.

Photographer Thomas Hawk visited the World Erotic Art Museum in South Beach took photos, he claims he didn’t see the no photography sign. Now the South Florida institution filed “fradulent” DMCA notice with Flickr and Yahoo, which owns Flickr, has threatened Hawk’s entire account with permanent deletion without future warning.

Hawk is a smart guy and knows the WEAM — yes, that’s the acronym — is overstepping. He also makes some strong points on his blog, including:

There are over three million photos tagged museum. I believe that our culture is richer when works of art (especially from museums) are photographed and put online for the entire world to see. It troubles me to think that all any museum would need to do to have these items removed from Flickr is submit a bogus DMCA request claiming copyright over 100% of the items in their collection that they quite clearly do not have.

CrunchGear also chimes in here, and it’s worthwhile reading the comment from someone who called the museum to ask about their policy and was confronted with Kafkaesque absurdity.

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic.

4 replies on “Museum Files $2 Million Suit Against Photographer for Posting Photos”

  1. I’ve always thought of Museums as public institutions; that they exist in service to the public and to share something with the public. So, i’m always baffled when they turn on the public so much. How exactly does this museum figure he’s doing 2 million dollars in damages? Are they afraid that by posting photos other people may take an interest and actually attend the museum?

  2. I can understand why the museum is responding this way. While I do believe permanent collections should be available online, rotating collections shouldn’t be without the original artist’s consent. The museum is just trying to protect their own ass, because they could be sued by any or all of the artists displaying work in that show for allowing a third party post their work online. If that happen, the museum could looses credibility and funding.

    1. There aren’t a lot of artists involved in this Lithia. Most of the object are artefacts with no copyright and certainly far beyond the date that their copyright has disappeared. In this day and age sharing images increases the interest in something not the other way around.

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