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Copyright Issues, Intellectual Property Rights, and America's Museums

By Rich Fisher


Tulsa, Oklahoma – When a museum buys a given painting or sculpture, what exactly does it acquire? Can an artist ever copyright his or her work in a way that "covers" more than the work itself? And what if a museum wants to reproduce an artistic image that it does not, in fact, physically possess (for the purpose, say, of selling postcards, tote bags, coffee mugs, or the like)? Today, more than ever before, museums across the U.S. are grappling with the thorny matters related to intellectual property rights. Therefore, the University of Tulsa and the Gilcrease Museum recently hosted a webinar entitled, "Copyright Essentials for Art Museums." This web-based forum, aimed at arming museum officials all over the country with as much up-to-date information as possible, occurred on June 9th --- and it was actually a partnership between Gilcrease, the TU Division of Continuing Education, and the TU College of Law. The event was led by Robert Spoo, associate professor at the TU College of Law, and it was facilitated by Robert Pickering, senior curator at Gilcrease Museum. Both Spoo and Pickering join us on today's edition of StudioTulsa as we explore the dual topic of copyright law and museum policy.