Art Gallery of Ontario Photography Policy Faces Criticism

The Art Gallery of Ontario unveiled a new photography policy late last year that is facing mounting criticism.  The policy permits personal, non-commercial photos of some of the architectural elements of the gallery building, but, citing copyright concerns, forbids photography in places where artworks are installed.  According to the AGO:

While our visitors often point out that some other major art museums in the world allow photography of artwork, many of those collections are no longer subject to copyright restrictions, or are under different copyright rules than those in Canada.  We didn’t set the copyright rules but we are required to respect them.

It is not clear what rules the AGO is referring to, but as Joe Clark points out, there are many exceptions that may apply.  Moreover, many works in the Gallery's collection are already in the public domain so that contrary to their claims, copyright law is not a barrier to a more liberal photography policy.  The AGO can obviously establish its own policy, but it should not rely on misleading copyright claims to support unpopular restrictions.


  1. Stephen Downes says:

    National Gallery
    When I went to take photos in the National Gallery I got the same song and dance about copyright. Interestingly, the restructions applied only to the Canadian photos (so I was told, at least). I demanded a refund and walked out, and made it very clear to the management that the Gallery had no business preventing Canadians from photographing public domain Canadian artworks.

  2. Donna "TripodGirl" Laframboise says:

    Photograph Freely at the Louvre
    One may take photos freely in the Louvre. I did so this past May. Which makes the AGO’s policy seem rather provincial.

    It seems to me there used to be a legit concern about the heat from old-fashioned camera flashes damaging centuries-old paintings. Interesting that copyright would now become yet another barrier to increased public interactivity.

  3. Blog reader says:

    Some more exceptions for photographing architectural works and publicly displayed sculptures and works of artistic craftsmanship
    Copyright Act:

    32.2 (1) It is not an infringement of copyright…

    (b) for any person to reproduce, in a painting, drawing, engraving, photograph or cinematographic work

    (i) an architectural work, provided the copy is not in the nature of an architectural drawing or plan, or

    (ii) a sculpture or work of artistic craftsmanship or a cast or model of a sculpture or work of artistic craftsmanship, that is permanently situated in a public place or building;

  4. If not copyright….
    …there is nothing more annoying if people are hogging positions in front of artwork in a gallery taking endless photos. It is rude and inconsiderate. The AGO should forbid it for that reason alone.

  5. Charles J Barry says:

    Not the only one.
    Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton, NB instituted a similar policy last year. I will not only no longer go there, but I also pulled my daughter from their after school program for children.