Walters Art Museum Removes Non Commercial License

In early January, we wrote about the Walters Art Museum as a case study in sharing. The museum is a pioneering open advocate and worked extensively with Wikimedia. They have donated over 18.000 images to Wikimedia Commons and hired a dedicated intern to enrich Wikipedia articles with openly licensed content from their collection.

The Walters has also set up a website with a dump of all their high quality scans of manuscripts and the corresponding metadata. The images can be downloaded in different file sizes, from a very small thumbnail, to the extremely high quality .tiff file of about 150 megabytes. Having images of this size available for re-use makes them a great resource for scholarly research and image annotation.

However, the readme page still mentioned at that point that commercial re-use of these images was not allowed. As mentioned previously on the OpenGLAM blog, this greatly reduces the possibilities for re-use. The images can for example not be used in Wikipedia articles and we were also not able to feature them on the Public Domain Review. For that reason we contacted the web manager and we are very happy to see that the Walters has now changed their licensing to the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike license (CC-BY-SA).

You are free to download and use the images and descriptions on this website under the licenses named above. You do not need to apply to the Walters prior to using the images. We ask only that you cite the source of the images as the Walters Art Museum.

The Walters also explicitly distances itself from the non-commercial restriction:

Note these terms mark a change from our previous license, which placed a noncommercial restriction on the use of these materials. The noncommercial restriction no longer applies, and this license supercedes the previously advertised license, and replaces that found in many of the archival TIFF image headers.

This change follows the Walters Art Museum’s licensing policy. More information on the Walters’ intellectual property policy can be found on the Walters website:

It is great to see that the Walters has made a clear and explicit statement about the licensing of their images. Very often still we run into vague or non-existent statements that greatly reduce the possibilities for third parties to re-use the data and content. For that reason one of the five OpenGLAM principles is: “When publishing data make an explicit and robust statement of your wishes and expectations with respect to reuse and repurposing of the descriptions, the whole data collection, and subsets of the collection.” The statement of the Walters Art Museum can be seen as a good example how to do this.

For more beautiful digitised manuscripts see The Digital Walters webpage.