Inquiries and court cases – Powerhouse and copyright

Archivists and museum goers in New South Wales (NSW) will no doubt be aware of the controversy surrounding the proposed move of the esteemed Powerhouse Museum from its location in Darling Harbour (central Sydney) to Parramatta (where the ASA conference will be later this year). It’s been suggested that the move is purely a landgrab by developers, while others have argued that the new museum will inject a cultural heart into Western Sydney. Both may be true.

The NSW government have decided to have a parliamentary inquiry into the way the Powerhouse, and other state museums and galleries, are funded. The terms of reference include :

d) access to the collections of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, the Australian Museum and any other state collections held in trust for the people of New South Wales, and programs that promote physical and online access
(emphasis mine) and
g) the impact of the efficiency dividend on the budgets of museums and galleries over the last 10 years, and funding levels compared to other states
Clearly, the State archives and State Library can be included, and it will be a very valuable resource for other state institutions to refer to when the report is published in November.
Public submissions close on 14 August, 2016.
In other news, a German court has ruled that copyright can exist in copies of public domain works, following a case in which the Reiss Engelhorn Museum sued Wikimedia after a wikimedian loaded up high resolution copies, taken from the Museum’s website.  Wikimedia is not happy, naturally, but I’m with the Museum on this one. In Australian law, as in the German law cited, provided there is a degree of intellectual involvement in the copying, then I think copyright would exist in the image. If it exists in photos taken on phones and with high speed SLR cameras, then the decisions about colour balance, cropping and so on, would meet the relatively low bar set here. The issue is, perhaps, not whether copyright exists, but how that copyright is then handled.  A creative commons licence might be the way to go…

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Archivist, historian, avid reader

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