Handbook of Cultural and Heritage Management


4.3. Intellectual Property and relevant legislation

Intellectual property (IP) refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions, literary and artistic works, designs and symbols, names and images.

IP is protected in law by, for example, patents, copyright and trademarks, which enable people to earn recognition or financial benefit from what they invent or create.

National and international legislation on Intellectual Property and copyrights


 The main legislative document regarding Intellectual Property is the Berne Convention for the Protection of literary and artistic works (http://www.wipo.int/treaties/en/ip/berne/summary_berne.html). It was established first in 1886, but it underwent several changes and amendments. The present-day convention was validated in 1979. It deals with the rights of intellectual creators and with particular forms of creativity, concerned primarily with mass communication. It concerns practically all forms and methods of public communication, not only printed publications but also such matters as sound and television broadcasting, films for public broadcasting in cinemas, etc. and even computerized systems for the storage and retrieval of information. The law protects the expression of ideas in words, musical notes, colours, shapes and so on. In a nutshell, it protects the owner of a work against those who “copy”, that is to say those who take and use the form in which the original work was expressed by the author.

The use of copyright notices is optional to claim copyright, because the Berne Convention makes copyright automatic. However, the lack of notice of copyright using these marks may have consequences in terms of reduced damages in an infringement lawsuit – using notices of this form may reduce the likelihood of a defence of "innocent infringement" being successful.

Copyrights and the WWW

It is believed that any kind of information (text, image, music, etc.) disseminated through the web can be copied and reproduced freely by anyone. Yet, this is a great misunderstanding, which may have legal and financial consequences, since the publication of material belonging to another person or entity without its permission is considered plagiarism, which is the theft of its intellectual property.

The Internet (WWW) makes it easier than ever to disseminate cultural products and intellectual creations of any sort. Furthermore, the webpages on their own constitute Intellectual Property of their creators. Therefore,  a complex system of IP protection extends to cover the WWW.

What is protected on the WWW?

➢      the unique underlying design of a Web page and its contents, including links, original text, graphics, audio, video, html, vrml, other unique markup language sequences

➢      list of Web sites compiled by an individual or organization and

➢      all other unique elements of ontology and metadata that make up the original nature of the material.

When creating a Web page, you CAN:

➢      Link to other Web sites. However, you need to cite your source and perhaps ask for permission, especially  if the source site says so.

➢      Use free graphics on your Web page. If the graphics are not advertised as "free" they should not be copied without permission.

➢      Use all other kinds of material (pictures, maps etc) only if they run under the license of Creative Commons (see below).

When creating a Web page, you CANNOT:

➢      Put the contents of another person's or organization's web site on your Web page

➢      Copy and paste information together from various Internet sources to create "your own" document. [You CAN quote or paraphrase limited amounts, if you give credit to the original source and the location of the source. This same principle applies to print sources, of course.]

➢      Incorporate other people's electronic material, such as e-mail, in your own document, without permission.

➢      Forward someone's e-mail to another recipient without permission

➢      Change the context of or edit someone else's digital correspondence in a way which changes the meaning

➢      Copy and paste others' lists of resources on your own web page

➢      Copy and paste logos, icons, and other graphics from other web sites to your web page (unless it is clearly advertised as "freeware." Shareware is not free).  Some organizations are happy to let you use their logos, with permission - it is free advertising. But they want to know who is using it. They might not approve of all sites who want to use their logo.

Creative Commons


Despite the restrictive rules of copyright, it is possible to use photos, videos even texts freely. This is possible if the above-mentioned objects run under Creative Commons.

“Creative Commons is a global non-profit organization that enables sharing and reuse of creativity and knowledge through the provision of free legal tools. Our legal tools help those who want to encourage reuse of their works by offering them for use under generous, standardized terms; those who want to make creative uses of works; and those who want to benefit from this symbiosis.” [From https://creativecommons.org/faq/#what-is-creative-commons-and-what-do-you-do].

Creative Commons offers a core suite of six copyright licenses. All licenses require that users provide attribution (BY) to the creator when the material is used and shared. Some licensors choose the BY license, which requires attribution to the creator as the only condition to reuse of the material. The other five licenses combine BY with one or more of three additional license elements: Non Commercial (NC), which prohibits commercial use of the material; No Derivatives (ND), which prohibits the sharing of adaptations of the material; and Share Alike (SA), which requires adaptations of the material be released under the same license.

There are many databases with photos under CC. In the meantime, many museums have not only published online their exhibits, but also, under certain circumstances (described on their website), they have made good photos of them freely available.


TIP: Despite the existence of Creative Commons, it is definitely recommended to take in consideration national legislation, especially when it comes to pictures of archaeological objects, even if these pictures have been taken privately, published on the Internet and licensed to the CC. The archaeological laws of many countries allow taking pictures of objects in museums or in public places, but only for private use. Their publication is allowed only if permission from the copyright owner (the museum or the appropriate state authority) is given.