This article is about exceptions in the copyright law for museums. So copyright law and the museum industry may sound like an odd fit but truth is they are linked in their purposes and objects which are essentially to promote and encourage the progress of science and art in order to constantly maintain the value and the heritage attached to certain works. Museums have been defined by the institute of museum and library sciences as an organized and permanent non-profit institution especially educational for aesthetic in purpose with professional staff which owns and utilize the tangible objects, cares for them and exhibit them to the public on some regular schedule.

The work of a museum consists of three primary functions, first is collection; second is preservation and third is research. The primary objective of museum is to gather and collect state of the art, masterpieces and artistic works. The second objective of museum is to conduct research. The museum industry is owned, managed and controlled by the law of copyright. So now let’s move to the limitations or exceptions in the copyright law for Museums. The limitations and the exceptions which can be incorporated in the copyright law to benefit the museum’s industry has been discussed by standing committee on copyright related rights that is SCCR which is established by the world intellectual property organization that is wipo.

All the members of wippo are associated with the committee which observes copyright and related issues and formulates recommendations not only for the benefit of museum industry. Copyright law must have some limitations and exceptions in order to benefit persons such as authors, artists, performers, broadcasters and the audience and to facilitate the free flow of information, education, research and dissemination of knowledge.

To have a cultural heritage policy, is a need for an hour. For smooth functioning and the management of these industries and to protect and preserve the cultural and artistic heritage for present and future generation, the general conference of united nations educational scientific and cultural organization adopted the world heritage convention on 16th November 1972. So the another very important aspect that must be considered while providing limitations and exceptions to the copyright mechanism in reference to the museum is that it is the concept of moral right of the authors and the owners of the associated work. According to the standing committee on copyright and related rights SCCR administered by wippo, specific kinds of categories of exceptions and limitations that are made to copyright law. Some of these exceptions include the use of exhibition of catalogues, reproduction for preservation purposes, usage of orphan works and communication to the public on the premises of museums. So the first exception is use of works, exhibition catalogues, advertisement of items in museum can attract legal issues by the virtue of copyright law. To enable the expansion of the reach and presence of museums, they must be exempted in respect of advertisement. Second is reproduction for preservation purposes. Preservation of artwork in a digital form must be allowed. Collecting the paintings, drawings,  sculpture, artistic craftsmanship is not only the task which can justify the purpose and the object of the existence of museum but to constantly maintain that the value of the artwork should be protected against theft. Reproduction of work must be permitted in order to preserve and restore the collections. Digital technologies can be very helpful in this regard which is subjected to the copyright regime.

Third is the use of orphan works when the author or the owner of the work is unknown. It becomes difficult to obtain their consent, hence such orphan work must be allowed in exception as is allowed in museums in the European union. And the fourth exception is communication to public on the premises of the museum. Besides the conventional method of having an attractive and state of art collection in the galleries of the museum, museum must be allowed to communicate their own work to the public in other ways. The digital medium is one of the best ways for such communications. But the copyright law in most jurisdictions restricted.

Communication in the form of cinematograph film, sound recordings and live performances must be allowed. For example Akshardham temple at New Delhi has a light and sound show with fountains which communicates the work to the public of the historic and artistic craftsmanship of the temple. So these were some specific limitations and exceptions which can be supplemented by some general exceptions such as reproduction for personal purposes, lipographic reproduction and use for the educational purposes. Section 52 of the Indian copyright act 1957 talks about an exception where unpublished work have certain permitted uses, where museum has unpublished work whose author is not known.

Anybody who has access to museum cannot only reproduce the work but can also publish it. Copyright laws covers artistic, literacy, dramatic, musical works etc. These works can form an autonomous field of study and access to these work will encourage and motivate others to contribute their ideas and talents to the growth of the art. Incorporating these limitations and exceptions can help the museum industry showcase and represent the artwork and cultural heritage of a nation. Copyright laws must be an eased with respect to such activities for social benefit. They should be permitted to produce a copyright work for the purposes of cultural preservation. This exemption should also secure the public’s right of access to such work.

Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.


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The copyright of this Article belongs exclusively to Ms. Aishwarya Sandeep. Reproduction of the same, without permission will amount to Copyright Infringement. Appropriate Legal Action under the Indian Laws will be taken.

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In the year 2021, we wrote about 1000 Inspirational Women In India, in the year 2022, we would be featuring 5000 Start Up Stories.

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