Italian scholars fight for free photographs in archives

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by Björn Schöpe

March 12, 2015 – Italy’s libraries are feared by students and scholars alike. No mobile phones or smartphones are permitted, photocopying is complicated and expensive. A change in the law, the ‘Art Bonus’ decree, was to remedy. It came into effect on 1 June 2014 and amended a paragraph of the ‘Codice dei beni culturali e del paesaggio’, or the set of rules on Italy’s cultural and natural heritage. According to the new law in all public and private institutions taking photographs with cameras and smartphones was permitted. Only photocopying and scanning was still limited for the sake of the objects. The only condition imposed was that the photographs were used for academic purpose and without financial involvement. The cultural scene was enthusiasted. But then everything changed again.

On 9 July 2014 the Chamber of Deputies modified the amended parts. The new law should not be applied to archives and libraries. Although scholars and other interested groups got involved in that matter this restriction has remained creating thus an absurd situation. Let’s say you need a certain book kept in a coin cabinet or any other ‘museum-like institution’ – no problem, you can take photographs and continue the research with the images in your office. But if the same book is in an archive or a library (which seems more likely) it is strictly forbidden to take any photographs. In that case you must make use of the library’s copy service – which takes generally a lot of time and money.

Therefore a petition demands to reverse this silly restriction. Many important scholars and intellectuals from Italy and abroad have signed already. You can ask, too, that access to knowledge is no longer restricted in such a way! Maybe that will also contribute to improve the situation in other countries with similar regulations limiting research of and access to our cultural heritage.
You can find the petition here.

Fill in your name and surname in the first field (‘Nome e Cognome’), below (also required) your email address. In the other two fields you can give your qualification (‘Qualifica’) and add any comment (‘Commento’).
More information on the decree and the legal situation gives the website Fotografie libere per i Beni Culturali (in Italian).