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Visitor photography

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Visitor photography and filming guide

The National Gallery of Australia has a rich collection and supports a stimulating exhibition program.

We understand that visitors may wish to take photographs or video in the Gallery as souvenirs of their visit. In many cases, however, the artist, not the Gallery, owns copyright in his or her works of art, and these artists’ copyrights are protected under the Australian Copyright Act 1968.

Different countries have different rules around artists’ copyrights, but the Australian rules apply at the Gallery to both works of art owned by the Gallery and works of art lent to the Gallery (including those from overseas).

If a work of art is protected by copyright, you can generally only photograph or film it with the copyright owner’s permission. This is the case whether you are a professional or an amateur, whether you use a camera or mobile device with a built-in camera and whether the work of art is the only thing in a shot or in the background. If you photograph or video a work of art, you may be liable for copyright infringement if you do not get permission.

Also, in some cases, the Gallery is only able to borrow works of art from other institutions or private collections on the basis that it imposes photography and filming restrictions. These restrictions will be clearly identified by signage.

Conditions for public photography

As a visitor, you are welcome to carry handheld cameras and mobile devices into the Gallery. Provided you do not infringe copyright, you can use these to photograph and film in the Gallery’s premises (including the Sculpture Garden ) on the following conditions: the photographs and footage are for personal use and ‘fair dealing’ purposes only, which includes for ‘research or study’ and ‘criticism or review’

  • no flash photography is used
  • only handheld devices (and no tripods, monopoles, selfie sticks or similar) are used
  • you observe any signage prohibiting photography and filming.

When can I photograph works that are protected by copyright?

Under the Australian Copyright Act, there are situations in which you may rely on an exception or defence to ‘reproduce’ a work of art (including in photographs and video). These include where you want to photograph or video for ‘fair dealing’ purposes, and this includes for ‘research or study’ and ‘criticism or review’.

There are also exceptions in the Copyright Act that permit:

  • ‘incidental’ filming, for example, where a work of art is included in the background to film footage (but note that this exception applies to filming only, not photography)
  • photographing and filming sculptures in public places, for example, the permanent collection sculptures located in the Gallery’s gardens and grounds.

Which works of art are protected by copyright?

Generally, Australian legislation protects copyright for the life of the creator plus 70 years. There are, however, a number of exceptions to this rule, the most important of which are:

  • paintings and other works of art, apart from photographs and engravings, created by someone who died before 1955
  • photographs taken before 1955 whether or not the photographer also died before that year
  • engravings, such as etchings and lithographs, created by someone who died before 1955 and published before that year.

Copyright in works falling into these categories has expired, and visitors can freely photograph and film these subject to any signage to the contrary, for example, where a work is lent to the Gallery on provision it is not filmed or photographed.

The wall labels for works of art in the Gallery usually state the birth and, if relevant, death dates of the artist. You can use these as a guide as to whether or not a work of art is likely to be in copyright.

David Moore Horse race crowd – Sydney 1963 National Gallery of Australia, Canberra Gift of David Moore 1983. David Moore Horse race crowd – Sydney  1963   National Gallery of Australia, Canberra Gift of David Moore 1983.

Getting permission to take photographs in cases where you cannot rely on a copyright defence

The Gallery cannot assist in getting any permission you might need. The Australian Copyright Agency’s Viscopy may be able to help, see viscopy.net.au.

Where can I get more information about copyright?

The Gallery is not able to give legal advice about copyright. More information about copyright is available from the Australian Copyright Council at copyright.org.au.

General points

For the public 
  • In many cases, images of works in the collection and on loan can be viewed on the Gallery’s main website and collection search .
  • High-quality posters and cards of some works from the Gallery’s collection can be purchased from the NGA Shop.
  • The Gallery also offers a Digital Print Service.
For publishers

To ensure the quality and integrity of reproductions and copyright clearance, publishers must comply with certain terms and conditions.

All publisher enquiries should be addressed to:

For media and film crews

For enquiries or bookings for access to the Gallery by the media or film crews, please contact the Marketing and Communications department:
email marketing@nga.gov.au phone +61 2 6240 6431

Copyright

While the Gallery owns the physical works of art in the collection, generally the artist/copyright holder retains the copyright separately and therefore has the exclusive right to control the reproduction of the work. Copyright holders may take legal action if copyright-protected works of art are photographed and reproduced without permission.

The above is general information only; it is not legal advice, and Gallery staff are not able to provide such advice. In all cases, signage prohibiting photography and filming must be observed.