Art Ethics*

Sharon Stoerger MLS, MBA

Codes of Ethics ~~ Case Studies ~~ Art Issues ~~ Other Issues in the Art World

Additional Resources

Codes of Ethics

Professional Associations:

American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies (ASECS)
A very detailed Web site with lots of links to sections like Officers & Committees, Professional & Career Development and Publications. No code of ethics is listed on their pages.

Association of Historians of Nineteenth-Century Art (AHNCA)
AHNCA is an affiliate of the College Art Association (CAA). No separate code of ethics is available at this site.

College Art Association (CAA)

Historians of Eighteenth-Century Art and Architecture (HECAA)
The HECAA site does not post a code of ethics, but membership data, current officer listings and the HECAA Constitution are provided. Information on how to subscribe to the HECAA listserv can also be found at this site.

Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA)
A link to the Mission and Values Statement for IDSA is available that covers the value of design, the leadership provided by IDSA, and the way IDSA serves its members. No code of ethics is listed on this site.

Midwest Art History Society (MAHS)
No code of ethics is available at this time. Several sections on the site say, "Coming Soon".

National Art Education Association (NAEA)
No code of ethics is documented on their Web site, but they do have a Research Agenda section that attempts to identify research issues and ways these issues may be funded.

National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA)
The NCECA site doesn't have a code of ethics section. They do, however, state their organization's purpose.

Other Professional Art Associations Codes:
The following sites are organizations that have code of ethics statements that may be of interest.

Graphic Communication Industry
The Code of Fair Practice for the Graphic Communication Industry that is intended to "uphold existing law and tradition and to help define an ethical standard for business practice in the graphic communications industry".

National Artists Equity Association (AEA)

The Declaration of Artists' Rights of the National Artists Equity Association (A.E.A), USA represents "the best interests of practicing artists throughout the country" and significant economic and legal issues".

National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD)
NASAD is an organization of schools, colleges and universities that offer art and design programs. The NASAD Code of Good Practice has been approved by the NASAD Board of Directors.

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Case Studies

An Artful Dodger?
A case involving a major art museum director's dilemma over whether or not to compromise standards for the sake of revenue.

Case Scenarios
A mixed bag of case scenarios, but there are a few dealing with art. These cases are intended for a college group, but they may be adapted to any level.

Ethics, Art & Money in the Work of J.S.G. Boggs
This scenario is based on a situation encountered by the artist J.S.G. Boggs and his project involving fake paper currency.

National Endowment for the Arts-Lessons Learned: Case Studies
The cases presented at this site are different from the others listed in this section. These National Endowment for the Arts case studies outline some of the struggles they have faced in the art world. Solutions are also given.

Savannah College of Art and Design Case
A scenario that deals with a student enrolled in an Art & Design MA program and the grades he received for classes not attended.

Stolen Property or Finders Keepers
This site lists an art-related scenario that can be used with a group divided into teams. Each team has an "assignment" with questions that should be considered during the investigation of the situation.

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Art Issues

Plagiarism and Art:

Plagiarism By Design? MIT Press Seeks Recompense from McGraw-Hill for Copying in Architecture Book (must be subscribed to the Chronicle of Higher Education to access)
Portions of Meredith L. Clausen's book, Pietro Belluschi: Modern American Architect, found their way into Roger Shepherd's book, Structures of Our Time: Thirty-one Buildings That Changed Modern Life. Clausen's work appeared without attribution, and Shepherd acknowledges that there are reasons but not excuses for their inclusion. Other problems with Shepherd's book, plus reactions from the publishers of both works are discussed in this article from the September 14, 2004 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education.

UPDATE (9/20/04): Additional information can be found in a September 20, 2004 Chronicle of Higher Education article titled, "Arts Professor at New School U. Resigns after Admitting Plagiarism." It can be accessed at

UPDATE (11/21/04): The professor who admitted to plagiarism a couple of months ago want his old job back, and he's willing to sue his former institution to do so. Initial reports from the school indicated that Roger Shepherd resigned, but that may not be the case. More information about this incident can be found in the November 17, 2004 article, "Professor Who Acknowledged Plagiarism Accuses New School U. of Firing Him Unfairly," published in the Chronicle of Higher Education. This article is available at

Plagiarism is a No Win Situation
This is a general piece on plagiarism and students, but it does make some art references.

Plagiarism is No Crime
This article addresses the issues surrounding artists who use other's styles and concepts in their work.

Copyright/Fair Use:
Copyright is very big topic in the art world right now, and it's often discussed in conjunction with art plagiarism issues.

10 Big Myths about Copyright Explained
This site has been listed on many artists' pages that discuss copyright.

Actions and Arguments in Support of Finding the Copyright Term Extension Act Unconstitutional
Links to documents regarding to the Copyright Term Extension Act are presented at this site.

Copyright and Plagiarism
Wendy Seltzer, a Harvard Law School graduate and associate with Kramer, Levin, Naftalis & Frankel, presented Copyright and Plagiarism at the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards Regional Sponsors' Conference.

Copyright Law in Cyberspace
A University of Texas site that's often mentioned in articles regarding artists and copyright issues.

Ethics and Computers: Implications for Teaching Art
This article has a school art teacher focus, but many of the issues raised in this paper could be adapted to fit a college setting.

Faculty Tackle Copyright Issues
An article about Penn State changing its intellectual property policies, including works of art, in regard to faculty.

Influence Versus Infringement
Designers often deal with issues related to professional behavior, law and ethics. This article discusses those dilemmas.

Is It Art, or Memorex,1284,43902,00.html
This article addresses the issue of net art and originality.

Legal Information for Artists
Kevin Dunn, a California attorney and painter, designed this site as a way to communicate legal information to artists.

Petrarch's Apes: Originality, Plagiarism and Copyright Principles within Visual Culture
Petrarch's Apes is a paper that was presented at the Media in Transition Conference at MIT on Oct. 8, 1999.

Three Simple Steps to Avoiding Plagiarism Prosecution
This brief document cites 3 different ways for artists to avoid getting involved in the growing number of lawsuits involving plagiarism.

Turner Chairman Rejects Plagiarism Accusations,2763,404008,00.html
An article about a plagiarism case involving a painting and the cover of a 1970's science fiction paperback.

Web-based Photographers Attacking Search Engines
A New York Times News Service article (reproduced in the Taipei Times) that discusses Internet theft and online art.

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Other Issues in the Art World

2 Professors are Indicted over Use of Bacteria in an Art Project (must be subscribed to the Chronicle of Higher Education to access)
Steven J. Kurtz, an art professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo, and Robert Ferrell, the chairman of the human-genetics department in Pittsburgh's Graduate School of Public Health, have been charged with "violating federal laws against mail and wire fraud." The materials that Kurtz obtained from Ferrell were going to be used in an exhibit on the politics of biotechnology in food that was to be displayed at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. Details surrounding this case can be found in this article from the June 30, 2004 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Additional information on this case can be found in the July 1, 2004 issue of the Scientist. It can be accessed at

UPDATE (7/8/04): Steven Kurtz was arraigned in federal court in Buffalo on July 8, 2004. Kurtz was indicted on four different counts, and he could receive up to 20 years in prison plus a $250,000 fine for each charge. Robert Ferrell faces the same charges but will be arraigned at a later date. This article titled, "Prof to Be Arraigned Today," can be accessed in the July 8, 2004 issue of the Scientist at

UPDATE (7/9/04): Additional details about the July 8, 2004 arraignment of Steven Kurtz on July 8, 2004 can be found in the July 9, 2004 issue of the Scientist. "Kurtz Pleads Not Guilty" can be accessed at

Ancient Art at Met Raises Old Ethical Questions
An exhibit currently on display at the Metropolitan Museum contains pieces with unknown pasts, and that is bringing concerns that surround stolen antiquities to the surface. In the "Art of the First Cities" show, the Naram-Sin piece is one of at least eight objects that has no clear record as to how it was acquired, and the debate regarding whether or not it is ethical to buy, show or publish scholarly articles on these "orphan objects" has moved into the pubic arena due to the events at the Iraq Museum. Points made by the collector, the scholars, and the curator are discussed in this article from the August 2, 2003 edition of The New York Times.

Big Auction Houses Take Closer Look at Issue of Ethics
A Christian Science Monitor article that takes a look at stolen art and the big auction houses like Sotheby's.

Indecency on the Internet: Lessons from the Art World
This document discusses the fight groups like the National Endowment for the Arts have had with Congress over censorship. It also examines how the lessons learned from that experience can be compared to those between Congress and the Internet.

Internet Auctions: In Flagrante Delicto?
An Art World News article that outlines the issues and problems surrounding Internet auctions and art.

Is the Body More Beautiful When It's Dead? (free registration to The New York Times may be required)
Thomas Condon, a Cincinnati photographer, is finding that there is often a fine line drawn between between art and crime. Condon was arrested after negatives taken of corpses at the Hamilton County morgue were leaked to the local press. If the Ohio Supreme Court does not take his case, Condon may find himself back in jail on charges of corpse abuse. This June 1, 2003 article from The New York Times discusses the legal issues surrounding this case and examines why death death images often invoke negative reactions.

Israeli Academic and 4 Others are Accused of Forging Inscriptions on Antiquities (must be subscribed to the Chronicle of Higher Education to access)
Five members of an alleged antiquities forgery ring were indicted last week. A few years ago, the Israeli Antiquities Authority established a committee to investigate several objects that were reported to date back to the Israelite period, and the recent indictments stemmed from this investigation. The effect this "exposure" on areas of historical and archaeological research, and additional information about this case can be found in the January 4, 2005 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Museum Security Network
The Museum Security Network was created and developed by Tom Cremers, who encourages cultural protection and prevents & solves crimes against cultural property. This site has "outgrown all other national and world professional organizations and service efforts in the field of museum and library security." The opening page for the Museum Security Network site posts recent thefts including the two masterpieces stolen on December 7, 2002 from the Van Gogh Museum.

Museums OK Ethics Guidelines for Exhibits of Private Art
After the Saatchi exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, which was controversial due to the shock value of the art (e.g. Virgin Mary displayed with clumps of elephant dung), the American Association of Museums adopted new ethical guidelines. This article discusses those guidelines.

The American Association of Museums ethical guidelines mentioned in the article can be found at

New MFA Link Seen to Looted Artifacts
SIDE NOTE: The Boston Globe (the source for this article) is reported to be a good source for art and museum scandals.
This particular article takes a look at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) and issues surrounding the way museums purchase artifacts from the antiquities market.

News Organization at Brigham Young U. Returns Awards for Copied Web-Site Design (must be subscribed to The Chronicle of Higher Education to access)
NewsNet, a news organization operated by students at Brigham Young University (BYU), received honors in May for its site design, but they had to decline the awards because much of the layout came from another site. Two students, who are no longer at BYU, created the NewsNet site and used many of the style elements found at the CNET Networks site, This June 3, 2003 article from The Chronicle of Higher Education examines how this type of plagiarism occurred and discusses the steps BYU is taking to correct the situation.

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Additional ethics resources can be found at the following sites.

Anthropology Ethics

Bioethics. See also the Biotechnology Web Page (UIUC)

Business Ethics

Ethics Case Studies

History Ethics



Research Ethics

Social Science Ethics: A Bibliography

Sociology Ethics

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*This site is an adaptation of Web pages I created for the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Created by Sharon Stoerger MLS, MBA
©September 30, 2002
Updated January 5, 2005