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Public Domain Infusion from The Met

Copyrighted works can enter the public domain in a variety of ways. One way is for presumed copyright holders to release the materials into the public domain. According to Vogue,  the Metropolitan Museum of Art  in New York has waived copyright protections on 375,000 images in its collection:

In her barnburner of a speech at the Golden Globes, Meryl Streep quoted her friend Carrie Fisher when she encouraged the audience to “take your broken heart, make it into art.” In turbulent times, art can provide distraction and inspiration, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York seems to have heard that rallying cry. Earlier this week, it announced a step to make its collection more accessible from around the world and to anyone with an Internet connection, by waiving the copyright to all artworks in the collection thought to be under the public domain. This means some 375,000 images spanning more than 5,000 years are now available for free and unrestricted use. The Met partnered with Creative Commons, an international nonprofit that facilitates sharing of creative works. In the wild world of the Web, where anyone can drag a picture off Google Images, it’s a way of actually permitting and encouraging users to do so.

“Increasing access to the collection and scholarship is a central tenet of the Met’s mission,” said Met director and CEO Thomas P. Campbell. “In making images of our public-domain artworks, as well as select data about them, available with Creative Commons Zero, the museum is adapting its practice to meet the needs of 21st-century audiences. The Metropolitan Museum of Art now becomes one of the largest and most diverse open-access museum collections in the world.”

The Met’s press release offers more details. If at least some of these images were already in the public domain, though, then was anything prohibiting their use previously? Certainly images 5,000 years old we already in the public domain, right? How will this action of the Met’s impact your creative pursuits? Will it be helpful for teaching? Will Meryl Streep’s Oscar speech have any other effects on copyright holders?

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