Bernard manages the broad field of Intellectual Property at the National Portrait Gallery. He shares the importance of protecting the collections and his advice on entering in this career.
What is your home town?
I was born in Brighton and now live in London (Limehouse).
What is your job title?
- Trade marks (which denote the origin of goods or services)
- Designs (which protect the ‘eye appeal’ of a product)
- Moral rights (which help protect the artist’s integrity)
- Artist’s Resale Right (which ensure artists get royalty payments from the resale of their works, when they're sold through the art market)
- Database rights (which protects the investment in the contents of a database)
What are your qualifications?
I studied English, French and German at A-level. Afterwards, I moved to London and started full-time work. I am fascinated by car design so I worked in two large car dealerships running customer service teams. After gaining work experience, a salary and buying a property, I focussed on what I really wanted to do, which was move into the arts.
I did my degree in History of Art and English, part-time with the Open University, in association with the University of London. The six modules usually take six years, but I condensed this into four years.
When I wanted to specialise in intellectual property, I did a Postgraduate Diploma in ‘UK, EU and US law of Copyright and Related Rights’ at King’s College London. This was completed over one year as a correspondence course.
How did you get into heritage?
I started off applying to various museums and galleries, at the same time as doing my Open University degree. I got a part-time job at the National Portrait Gallery in the bookshop. I worked in the mornings and studied in the afternoons, which meant I could keep a good work/life balance.
"I am proud that the Gallery is a great source of advice that people can rely on."
With a foot in the door, I looked for internal opportunities and got involved in different areas. I undertook picture research for a couple of large projects in our Rights & Images department.
The initial copyright officer role was created in 2003 after we began digitising our whole collection of 330,000 portraits. At that stage, copyright became a core focus for the Gallery.
In 2006, I suggested the idea for an exhibition of ‘Gay Icons’ which became an actual exhibition in 2009. I’m also on our Equality Steering Group. Once you're in a post, I found that opportunities come up and new positions are created, so keep your eyes open.
What do you do all day?
I work in the Rights & Images team, and my tasks include:
- Setting the example for using Intelletual Property correctly.
- Training and providing advice to colleagues in all departments.
- Dealing with a crisis – In the rare event of a copyright claim against the Gallery, I’m the first line of defence in a legal claim
- Advising on credit lines for exhibition catalogues and the many other publications – both printed and on-line – that the Gallery produces.
- Database work – ensuring clear and concise information is accurately recorded for use by others.
- Working with the licensing team to generate income for the Gallery.
- Tracking the estate of an obscure photographer, with the aim of setting up a beneficial agreement.
- Looking after filming and photography in the Gallery – this takes place before opening hours and involves contracts, payments and advice.
- Spotting copyright infringements and acting accordingly
Most of the role is giving advice, setting people on the right path and training across all departments.
What's the best thing about the role?
Providing advice to people and seeing them eventually being able to answer their own questions from what they’ve learnt. I believe in sharing knowledge wherever possible (whilst also being aware of its value).
"The artworks might belong to us, but the rights might be owned by a completely different party."
I get a buzz when I speak to different sorts of people - artists, visitors, staff, and other museums – and I am proud that the Gallery is a great source of advice that people can rely on.
It is rewarding to know you’re part of the background work that helps the Gallery. Without the researching, cataloguing, documenting and curating that often goes on behind the scenes, you wouldn’t be able to open your doors with the same enthusiasm and confidence as we do.
What's the worst thing about the role?
It's annoying if you get challenged over the way copyright is managed. I dealt with someone yesterday who thought copies of all art should be made available to everyone around the world, free of charge.
Yes, the artworks might belong to us, but the rights might be owned by a completely different party. The bigger picture is that Intellectual Property needs to be handled carefully, so that the Gallery gets income to help fund its “free” activities, and that the artists themselves get paid.
How do I get started in heritage?
The four pieces of advice for entering in this career are:
1. Get researching
If you’re interested in getting into this field, research different types of intellectual property as it is such a broad area – the Intellectual Property Office is an excellent starting point. But do get in touch with people like myself who can advise you. Lots of people will help if you ask around.
2. Study in a way that suits you
Don't feel like you have to go into full-time education immediately. You can pause and do voluntary work or work full-time to get finance behind you. I found that when I did my Open University degree, I had life experience that I could apply to my learning. Consider part-time learning in the evenings and on weekends.
3. There are different ways into Intellectual Property
What is helpful upon entering this career is initially qualifying in a degree in the arts - like art history, fine art, curating - and then follow on with specialist Intellectual Property training or experience working in an image library. Consider alternative routes in too. For example, having a law degree is relevant as you can decide to continue or use this within the arts.
4. Accuracy is absolutely imperative.
We have to be spot-on with attention to detail. We have a phrase in my team, where we describe ourselves as having to ‘nail jelly to the wall’.
Bernard is part of our heritage experts panel. Ask Bernard a question about working in heritage.