Recently we had an author request an image and its attendant rights from an archive at a university museum. According to the rights holder’s requests, the form specified that their permission pertains to print books only. This is not uncommon, but books published in the Art History Publication Initiative are all being published in e-book editions as well. We negotiated with the director of the archive at the university museum and explained the initiative’s purpose and goals to her.

Generally, the authors of our books request their own permissions, but the permissions manager can step in to help. I sent the following letter to the archive:

This book has been accepted as part of the Art History Publication Initiative, a Mellon-funded project that helps first-time authors acquire images and image permissions for books published in both print and e-book formats. The reason for this is that the strict permission contracts have made it nearly impossible for art history books to be digitized in the past, and we are hoping to find ways of giving scholarly art history books formats that will be less expensive and more accessible for scholarship and teaching. The e-books, however, are still treated as books—they are sold individually and images cannot be extracted—they exist only as a part of the electronic book itself.

So far, we have not had any instances where rights holders have denied e-book rights, but they often require a larger fee. I have found that most institutions agree that they have the same goals that we do—to help create academic discourse. They do this by allowing their holdings to be photographed and used for research and in publications. We are trying to aid in getting those publications out there in their most useful formats for scholars, teachers, and students.