The importance of the Group lies not only in the co-ordination of activities but also in its influence. It is one of the few cross-sector groups in existence in the museum community to represent the concerns of both large and small museums in the UK, reflecting the diversity of collections held within such institutions.
The Group plays an essential role in the well-being of museums and galleries in an increasingly competitive and complex environment.
The Group commissioned A Guide to Copyright for Museums, published by Routledge in 2000. The publication is a key text for museum professionals and the first of its kind in the UK. It provides practical assistance and contains a number of model agreements. In 2003, the Group commissioned Graham Cornish to produce Guidelines on the Recent Changes to Copyright Law, examining the effect of the 2003 European copyright legislation on the museums, galleries, libraries and archives community.
The Group has also produced a fact sheet on Photocopying in Museums and Galleries.
The Group's Executive disseminates information on best practice through a variety of media, such as Museums Journal, the Art Newspaper, Art Law Journal, New Heritage Magazine, the British Association of Picture Libraries and Agencies (BAPLA), the Area Museums Council and the International Bar Association. In 1997, the Group commissioned a survey of 100 museums on the awareness of copyright issues and associated rights amongst museums in the UK.
The Group contributed to the publication of the Museums and Galleries Pricing Guidelines for Reproduction Fees published by the Museum Trading and Publishing Group, 1998. Representatives from the Executive have spoken at numerous seminars on copyright issues including seminars run by:
In July 2000, in response to the US court case Bridgeman Art Library v Corel Corporation over copyright in photographs of public-domain works of art, the Group commissioned a report and Leading Counsel's opinion on the legal implications in the UK.
In 2003, members of the Group in collaboration with the Museums Association ran two heavily over-subscribed seminars looking in depth at the copyright legislation and impact of the 2003 European Copyright Directive. FAQs based on one of the seminars are available on these pages.
The Group has had a number of meetings to share information and plan joint campaigns with representatives from libraries and archives such as European Bureau of Library Information and Documentation Associations (EBLIDA), European Fair Practice in Copyright Campaign (EFPICC), Educational Copyright Users Forum (ECUF), Standing Conference of National University Libraries (SCONUL), Society of Archivists, Library Association, Libraries and Archives Copyright Association (LACA) and The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP).
A representative from the Executive Committee joined a JISC forum to discuss practical ways for the museums sector to work with UK universities to disseminate information over the Internet.
The Group is represented on the Governments' Creative Industries Task Force Intellectual Property Sub Group, bringing together copyright holders from all sectors.
The Group has links with overseas organisations such as the American Museums Association and the Canadians Museums Association.
Members of the Executive have made representations to bodies in the UK and Europe to promote the work of the Group and the issues facing museums in the field of copyright. Meetings have been conducted with representatives from the DCMS, the DTI and Patent Office, the Publishers' Association, the Irish Government's Department of Culture and the European Commission. The Group initiated a critical response from the NMDC to the Draft Directive on the Harmonisation of Copyright.
The Group was instrumental in securing support for amendments favourable to the cultural sector which, although not implemented as part of the mandatory provisions of the new legislation, were an important achievement and leave the way clear for possible future amendments.
The Group also provides a voice for museums and galleries interests in other industries, particularly through BAPLA (British Association of Picture Libraries and Agencies), with other sectors - particularly libraries and archives - and with organisations overseas (American Museums Association and the Canadian Museums Association).
The Group received initial funding from the Museums and Galleries Commission, which not only supported secretarial assistance but also made possible the publication of A Guide to Copyright for Museums and Galleries, and a report and legal opinion on the Bridgeman case. The Group's lobbying efforts in Europe have been supported by the NMDC. In 2003, the Group received funding from The Council for Museums, Libraries and Archives (formerly Resource). In-kind support comes from the members of the Group and their institutions including pro bono support from Farrer & Co solicitors.
In order to sustain regular funding for continued secretarial support, the Group introduced annual subscription fees in 2004.
The Museums Copyright Group is chaired by Tom Morgan, Head of Rights and Reproductions, National Portrait Gallery.
The Secretary of the Group is Debbie McDonnell, Documentation Manager at The Art Fund.
Other members of the Executive and the organisations they represent are:
The membership of the Wider Group of the Museums Copyright Group is comprised of a number of individuals representing museums, galleries, libraries and archives as well as other interested parties who contribute actively to the copyright and Intellectual Property Right issues affecting the cultural heritage sector.