Proposed ethical guidelines on intellectual property

A call for case studies on intellectual property issues

These guidelines grew out of discussions at the 1996 and 1997 ASTC Annual Conferences, which were moderated by Joe Ansel, Abbie Chessler, Paul Green, J. Newlin, and Peter Richards. Intellectual property issues also will be the subject of a session moderated by Peter Richards at the October, 1998 conference. We are seeking case studies to consider in that session, as well as comments about the proposed ethical guidelines. Please limit your submission to one page and send it to: Dan Gutstein, ASTC, 1025 Vermont Avenue, NW, Suite 500, Washington, DC 20005-3516; or fax 202/783-7207; or e-mail: dgutstein@astc.org.
These guidelines are from "Whose Idea Is It, Anyway?", a four-part article that appears in the May/June issue of the ASTC Newsletter. Copies of the ASTC Newsletter are available through ASTC publications.

Science centers and science museums have grown and operated within a creative community that has, for the most part, freely shared its findings and developments. As the field grows, and as financial resources shrink, it is important to acknowledge the value of sharing creative work and ensure that it continues. Museums and their audiences everywhere gain from this exchange, and without it, programs will suffer and creativity dwindle.

At the same time, everyone has a great deal to gain from respecting the intellectual property of individual creators, museums, and contractors. The word "respect" means crediting creative work properly, as well as obtaining permission for reproduction and display. Without respect, it is likely that fewer museums and creators will be willing to share their work with others in the future.

The following text puts forth a set of ethical standards for ASTC-member institutions concerning the protection of intellectual property. For the purposes of this document, contractors who design, develop, and produce exhibits and programs directly for a museum should be regarded as that museum’s agent. Contractors should thus subscribe to the same ethical practices as the museum and are entitled to the same consideration and respect.

Hopefully, museums and contractors will adopt these guidelines as standard practice. Museums should make sure their contractors know the ethical and legal issues involved with copying works from other museums. Moreover, museums should give contractors a copy of these guidelines as part of the contractual process.

I. Be knowledgeable and abide by the law
Museums and their contractors will respect the ownership of intellectual property as defined by the laws of trademark, copyright, and patent. Museums will not infringe on the names that other museums use as trademarks.

II. Respect creators
Neither a museum nor a creator owns the idea for an exhibit or other work; however, the expression of an idea may be patented. (Certain concepts and ideas can be protected as trade secrets.) Museums agree that all rights to original works produced by a museum belong to the museum unless written agreements specify otherwise. Museums and their contractors agree that rights to reproduce existing works, not specially commissioned and purchased from a vendor, belong to the work’s originator or originating institution. Museums and their contractors agree that rights to reproduce original works commissioned from a practicing, independent creator or contractor remain the property, respectively, of the creator or contractor, unless written agreements specify otherwise.

A. Exhibits
Museums and their contractors who create exhibits by modifying or improving prior exhibits need not give public credit to the creators of the earlier work. However, museums and contractors will credit prior work in non-public descriptive materials such as catalog sheets, maintenance manuals, and other written pieces that are shared with other museums or contractors.

Museums and their contractors will not manufacture for sale or otherwise distribute direct copies or copies with minimal modification of other museums’ and contractors’ exhibit work without permission from the originating institution or contractor. However, after consultation with the originating museum or contractor, a museum may make a copy of such a work or direct a contractor to make a copy of such a work for the museum’s own use.

B. Works of art
Unless requested otherwise by the artist, museums and their contractors will not display original works commissioned primarily for aesthetic purposes from practicing, independent artists without clear and visible labels that credit the creator of each work. Museums will not reproduce such works for their own use without written permission from the artist. Moreover, museums and their contractors will not manufacture for sale or otherwise distribute copies of such works without written permission from the artist.

C. Audiovisual and computer-based materials
Museums and their contractors will not manufacture for sale or otherwise distribute direct copies or copies with minimal modification of other museums’ and contractors’ computer software or audiovisual programs without permission of the author(s) and owner(s).

D. Text and images
Museums and their contractors will assume that text and image materials are copyrighted and will not use them without permission from the creator.

E. Presentations
Museums and their contractors will not use substantially unmodified scripts for public presentations without permission of the author and the institution or contractor who produced the script. When permission is granted, the user will give credit in printed materials to the author and originating institution.

F. Research
Museums and their contractors should encourage each other to share research upon direct request whenever feasible. Museums and their contractors will not distribute the results of others’ research without permission from the owner(s) of the research. All references to original research will credit both the author(s) and the originating institution(s).

III. Protect
Museums and their contractors will protect the interests of individual creators with whom they contract or whose work they purchase. Each institution will maintain a contact information registry that lists the owners of rights to the exhibits, works of art, audiovisual materials, and computer programs that it holds or displays.

Museums and their contractors will respect other museums’ rights to original research and technology and will not seek to obtain or use these in any way other than through direct application to the owners.

IV. Share
Museums and their contractors agree to share and exchange information related to the techniques and practices of informal education freely, or at minimal cost, in order to contribute to the field at large. In particular, more established museums and contractors agree to contribute to smaller and emerging museums.

selected bibligraphy

contact us | go home

©1998 Association of Science-Technology Centers Incorporated. All rights reserved.