Last March 16, French Minister of Culture and Communication Fleur Pellerin posted on Twitter a photograph reproducing paintings by French artist Pierre Bonnard, apparently taken with her smartphone whilst visiting an exhibition at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris (1).
Some people immediately criticized her for not having observed the numerous signs in the museum prohibiting photographs by visitors. On this subject, the Minister objected that she was trying and enforcing a charter published by the French Ministry of Culture aiming at promoting and sharing culture in the digital era (2).
But another question arose: what about copyright law?
Pierre Bonnard indeed died in 1947 and his work is consequently still protected under French copyright law which extends the author’s rights during 70 years after his death (3). And according to copyright law, any reproduction made without the consent of the author or of his successors or assignees is strictly forbidden (4).
To stop this new argument, the Ministry of Culture revealed to French online magazine Slate.fr (5) that it was duly authorized by the Society of Authors in the Graphic and Plastic Arts (ADAGP in French), which is the copyright management company administering Bonnard’s intellectual property rights, to broadcast the copyrighted works they manage as part of their communication.
That is how the controversy comes to an end, at least as far as the French Minister of Culture is concerned, because not everyone has the same privileges.
Let us recall that unauthorised publishing or broadcasting reproductions of copyrighted works is an infringement on the author’s rights, even when done on the internet or on social networks.
(1) Her tweet is here: https://twitter.com/fleurpellerin/status/577588216443899905
(2) Basically, the charter provides some ground rules enabling visitors to photograph works of art displayed in French museums and authorizing them to publish said pictures on the internet and social networks. It can be downloaded on the website of the French Ministry of Culture (in French only): http://www.culturecommunication.gouv.fr/Ressources/Documentation-administrative/Tous-photographes-!-La-charte-des-bonnes-pratiques-dans-les-etablissements-patrimoniaux
(3) Article L.123-1 of the French Intellectual Property Code.
(4) Article L.122-4 of the French Intellectual Property Code.
(5) See the article (in French only) on their website: http://www.slate.fr/story/99297/fleur-pellerin-orsay-droit