The Paul Mellon Centre creates, organises, and disseminates a broad range of digital images and data that document the rich history of British art and architectural history.

We aim to encourage users to reuse our images to increase reach and promote our collections. We achieve this through adoption of Creative Commons content licenses that enable reuse by audiences.

Creative Commons licences do not apply to all the content on our websites. In some cases the reproduction of objects in our collections may be restricted by one or more of the following legal frameworks:

  1. Copyright in the work of art
    The work of art depicted in the image has copyright protection in the UK if the artist is alive, or if the artist died less than 70 years ago. In this case, the image cannot usually be reproduced in any format without express permission from the copyright owner.
  2. Copyright in the photograph
    In current UK law, when a photographer takes an image of a work of art, even if the underlying work is in the public domain, a new copyright may be created in that photograph. Copyright in that photograph is usually owned by the photographer unless otherwise agreed in writing, or if the photographer were an employee.
  3. Contractual agreements
    As part of the acquisition or digitisation of this object, our organisation may have entered into a contract that limits the use of the resulting work. Restrictions may include, but are not limited to, privacy issues, cultural protections, digitisation agreements or donor agreements.

Permission for reuse of the digital files is determined by a combination of factors including intellectual property legislation and contractual agreements. The extent to which each image may be re-used is indicated within the catalogue record describing the object, and in the object’s associated metadata.

There are certain situations where you may be permitted to use material that is protected by copyright law without seeking permission from the owner. In the UK these “exceptions to copyright” are explained by the Intellectual Property Office (https://www.gov.uk/guidance/exceptions-to-copyright) and in the USA by the Copyright Office (https://www.copyright.gov/fair-use).


Re-use without restriction (CC0 1.0)

Some of the digital image files in our collections reproduce objects that are now in the public domain, and there are no known copyright or legal restrictions to prevent us from releasing the digital files for re-use. You can copy, modify and distribute the file without asking permission, even for commercial purposes.

It is not necessary to register for an account to download images with this licence: a download icon will appear on the object record.

Re-use for non-commercial purposes (CC BY-NC 4.0)

Some of the digital image files in our collections are offered for re-use for non-commercial purposes, as long as you give appropriate credit. A Creative Commons BY-NC 4.0 licence lets you share, copy, and redistribute the material in any medium or format. You are also permitted to adapt, remix, transform, and build upon the material.

You may use the materials under the following conditions:

  • Acknowledge the source: You must give appropriate credit, provide a reference to the source of the image, and indicate if changes were made.
  • Non-Commercial intent: Your use may not be primarily intended for or directed towards commercial advantage or monetary compensation

You do not need to ask permission to use the images as long as you accept these terms.

No Re-use

We are legally prevented from offering some of the digital image files in our collections for reuse. These restrictions may come from UK legislative protections for intellectual property such as copyright, or from contractual agreements between ourselves and third parties.

Re-use beyond the licence indicated

If you would like to request permission to use a digital reproduction of an item from our research collections for purposes that are not otherwise defined, please contact our Research Collections staff at photoarchive@paul-mellon-centre.ac.uk.