The Art Gallery of Ontario and Photography


The AGO forbids photography of art work in the galleries, though it does permit photography of architectural elements of the building itself. The premise for this is explained in one of their blog postings and, well, it's a spurious claim to say the least. For example:

"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."

On the first point many, if not most, of the AGO works are also in the public domain so, in fact, are not subject to copyright law, Canadian or otherwise. So, right off the bat, the assertion is a false one. On the second point, copyright is multi-nationally enforced with common agreements between many countries. For the most part, the rules are very much aligned and that makes it pretty easy to deal with anywhere and Canada's rules are not that complex or unusual.

"We didn’t set the copyright rules but we are required to respect them."

They also didn't read the rules, clearly, so I'm left being unsure of how they are thus able to respect them. For example, Part III, section 29 of the Copyright Act deals with fair use rights that are non-infringing. For further reference, which I also invite the AGO to examine, see the text of the Copyright Act itself.

If the AGO wants to ban photography, itself an art form that it showcases, then they may do so. It is, after all, within their rights. However, it's particularly pathetic that they feel the need to lie about it in the process. That tells me they have no real excuse, more of a "we felt like it" attitude, and then used a poorly executed attempt to justify it with a law that doesn't support them.

In the end, I might suggest to the AGO that they become aware of the Internet. It's not all that hard to see if they have a case for their argument, Google turns up a link to the act as their first hit. People do check assertions every now and then, I know I did.

By the way, before I get asked... I do support banning flash photography in the galleries. While there is some dispute as to the effect the flash has on some of the art, it's still a reasonable request. Why take a chance? Besides, the flash can disturb other viewers. Not allowing tripods, however, is a little absurd.

One final thought on this. It is permitted to sketch works in the AGO, using pencils only (go figure that one as well). The AGO is inconsistent: either the work cannot be copied or it can. Sketch, photography, or whatever, it's a copy. They're inconsistent on this front and that makes their policy even more absurd.

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