What are the main ways in which time-based media are bought and sold?
There are two main ways in which artists working in video have traditionally made their work available. The first is through distributors and the second is through the fine-art gallery system.

What is the difference between acquiring a work from a distributor rather than a gallery or dealer?
A gallery or dealer will usually sell a work as unique, or part of a limited edition. A distributor will have different structures of payment depending on how you intend to use the work. Different formats may be bought for a particular screening or you may buy a media format with archival and exhibition rights. Restrictions apply, such as your ability to loan the work.

Who are the largest distributors of video?
EAI (Electronic Arts Intermix), Video Data Bank, Montevideo and LUX.

What is the difference between film and video?
Film is essentially a transparent photographic medium through which light is projected to create an image. It usually requires a negative and is frame-based. Video is an electronic system of encoding whereby images and sound are encoded as electrical waveforms or pulses and are stored via magnetic particles within a plastic substrate. To see the images, the electrical waveforms or pulses of energy have to be decoded. Video may be analogue or digital. Analogue video is stored as continuous waveforms; digital video is stored as a binary system of 0s and 1s encoded as electronic pulses.

What am I really buying?
In purchasing a work of media installation art you are acquiring a combination of content, hardware, instructions and rights.

What does it mean to say a work is sold as a limited edition?
When a work is sold as a limited edition, similar to prints and cast sculpture, the number of the edition is declared and fixed when the work first enters the market. Someone buying the work will receive a certificate that will state which number within the edition has been purchased:, for instance one of three. The edition is a way of creating rarity and control in the world of reproducible media.

Who else owns an edition of the work?
The gallery who represents the artist will keep details of all the owners of editions sold.

What comes with the work?
This is normally determined by the seller/gallery but the exact details are usually negotiable. An acquisition could include hardware, but at least should include instructions, rights, and archival master copy and an exhibition copy.

What do I need to get?
See the pre-acquisition summary. This will most often include documentation of the installation, provenance of the artwork, an equipment checklist including the distinction between what is required but not included in the sale, an outline from the artist as to intent special considerations for installations, an archival master and exhibition copies of the work.

What is dedicated display equipment/non-dedicated display equipment?

See the pre-acquisition summary 

What are essential documents/contracts?

See the pre-acquisition summary

What are my rights and responsibilities as a buyer?
Your rights and responsibilities are determined in the Purchase Agreement. You should have the right to exhibit the work and in most cases lend the work. Responsibilities may include preserving, migrating and maintaining the work.

Do I get different rights if I buy the work as an edition rather than as a unique work?
No: your rights to loan, display, preserve and sell the work are the same whether you buy a work as a unique work or as an edition. However if you buy a work as an edition of six, for example, another five people also have those rights. You typically do not have the right in either case to show the work in more than place at a time.

What does the Copyright Agreement cover?
The Copyright Agreement should specify the buyer’s rights with respect to display, preservation, lending, PR, and publication.

Why do I need a copyright licence?
Unauthorised duplication of a copyrighted work may violate the rights of the copyright holder. A copyright licence will establish and define the owner’s rights with regard to migration, the creation of exhibition copies and similar issues having to do with the duplication of the work.

How do we know who holds the copyright – owner or artist?
Most often the artist holds the copyright to his or her work. A seller claiming ownership of the copyright in the work should warrant that he or she has the rights and can confer them upon the buyer.

What is a Certificate of Authenticity?
The Certificate of Authenticity is a document signed by the artist or artist’s estate that certifies (a) that the work is a work of art and (b) that it is by the artist named in it.

What is an Affirmation of Title and how does it differ from the Certificate of Authenticity?
Affirmation of Title merely confirms the proper ownership of the copyright. It does not ensure the authenticity of the work of art itself.

What is a master?
A master is the source from which copies are made. The purchased archival master should be the one closest to the artist’s originally edited source tape, if the artist’s source itself has not been acquired.

Who holds the master (artist original)?
The artists most originally edited master may be held by a variety of stakeholders. The artist, a gallery, artist’s estate, museums and educational institutions have all been known to keep the artist’s master.

What is an ‘Artist’s Proof’?
The existence of one of more artist’s proofs may be declared alongside the edition. For example one might see ‘Edition of 6 with 2 APs’. Artist’s proofs function as editions belonging to the artist. Artist’s proofs are also sometimes sold at a later date. If an artists sells all their dedicated artist’s proofs they would then have to ask an owner for permission to show the work.

What is an exhibition copy?
The exhibition copy is the copy of the media used for the installation. This is can be used during the installation and should be considered replaceable.

Whom do I contact for technical support?
Contact a museum conservation department, gallery, consultant and/or artist/studio that are familiar with these types of works (see  pre-acquisition summary).

How do I document the work of art?
Documentation of the work usually includes a combination of photography, diagrams, schematics, legal documentation, Installation Specifications, and verbal/recorded accounts of the work.

What should be included in archival files?
See post-acquisition summary. These files will usually include a receipt for the artwork, condition reports, the invoice, an acquisition summary, the certificate of authenticity, a copyright agreement, the artist’s contact information, a commissioning agreement (if applicable), the curatorial rationale, correspondence and transcripts of an artist’s interview.

What is a Condition Report?
The Condition Report is a record that monitors the physical and electronic qualities of all components of the work.

My collections management database only provides limited fields for cataloguing time-based art. Where can I learn more about additional fields?
Many museums and private collectors are struggling with this. Some producers of museum catalogue databases will revise their software in the future (please lobby them). In the meantime, you may need to create a database specifically for your time-based media collections. The ‘Cataloguing Project’ of Independent Media Arts Preservation (IMAP) may serve as a helpful resource.

How will the work last over time?
Media works last through a process of migration, an assessment of documentation, an assessment of new replacement technologies, and interview with artists as to possibilities for future iterations.

What are the recommended formats for migration?
The recommended migration format changes over time. In many instances it is determined by broadcast industry standards. Ideally a professional uncompressed component digital tape format is the best format for storing video. An example of this is D5. However these formats are expensive and not always accessible, therefore a ‘lossless’ compression format is often recommended such as Digital Betacam (see EAI Resource Site). It is also becoming possible to store uncompressed video as data on computer tape formats such as LTO.

Is a copied tape identical to the original?
An analogue copy is never identical to the original and each time it is copied generational loss occurs. In the digital domain it is possible to achieve a perfect clone from one format to an identical format. However all digital tape formats are different and if you copy a digital tape made on one format to another format, changes will occur. This is due to differences in sampling rate, how the data is sampled and differences in the compression algorithms used.

How do I prepare myself for equipment becoming obsolete?
The best known preparation for obsolescence includes the stockpiling of equipment, information gathering, and dialogue with artists/technicians/corporations (through preservation planning).

Where do I go for help?
Matters in Media Art,  IMAP and EAI all have resource websites.