Digitization and Availability of Artworks in Online Museum Collections
Economic Research Working Paper No.75
Auteur: Alexander Cuntz
Auteur: Matthias Sahli
Auteur: Paul J. Heald
Année de publication: 2023
We provide quantitative evidence from museum collections about how copyright status affects the availability of digital images of artworks. The paper applies a regression discontinuity and differences-in-differences design to estimate online availability of artworks from U.S. collections on digital platforms. We find a strong increase in the availability of digital surrogates when copyright is perceived to expire and original artworks are likely to transition to the public domain. Moreover, artworks and surrogates made available see a large number of downstream reuses based on google image search data, which indicates online availability is of commercial and public value independent of right status. Notably, we show that upstream surrogates of public domain artworks made available by museums are positively correlated with higher image resolution quality as compared to digitized artworks still protected under copyright laws. At the same time, it seems expressed industry norms can help encourage U.S. museums to also make low-resolution surrogates of copyrighted artworks available.