Open Content at the Getty: Three Years Later, Some Lessons Learned

Mikka Gee Conway, Marissa Clifford and Nathaniel Deines | The Iris | August 16, 2016

Inside the legal and technical challenges of releasing two recent digital art history projects via open licensing

Three years ago this week the Getty announced the launch of our Open Content Program, making available 4,600 high-resolution images from the Getty Museum and Getty Research Institute collections for anyone to use, modify, and publish anywhere for any purpose. In his announcement, our president Jim Cuno hinted that more content would be made freely available for reuse in the months to follow, including digital publications and other knowledge resources.

And more content did follow: since 2013 the Getty has released over 100,000 more images through the Open Content Program, and we are increasingly using open licenses for Getty-developed content including selected digital publications, Research Institute archival finding aids, Getty Museum online collection data, Getty Conservation Institute teaching and learning resources, and even the very blog you are reading right now. Throughout, our priority in developing openly licensed resources has been to make the Getty’s work as widely available and usable as possible, while retaining the right to attribution.

Digital access to cultural resources helps foster understanding of the arts, and is key to our mission and our responsibility to the professional communities we serve. But open access and open licensing represents a fundamental shift in how the Getty conceptualizes, creates, and disseminates its own intellectual property. And as we’ve been finding, implementation is often easier said than done, particularly for projects that were conceived before but published after the Getty’s full embrace of open content...