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The Bust of Nefertiti: Who Owns the Copyright to 3D Scanned Art?

by • March 1, 2016 • No Comments

There is a lot to discuss next TheNew York Times’ Swiping a Priceless Antiquity…with a Scanner and a 3-D Printer of the Bust of Nefertiti in the Neues Museum which
was surreptitiously 3D scanned by two German artists: Is their story of how they received the scan true? What does it mean for the ongoing dispute of the appropriateness of such an artifact residing in a German museum? Should additional museums be releasing high high end 3D scans of their collection? Where can I get a copy of the file?

Some folks in addition
a few day begin
to wonder of copyright. Are the artists infringing on any rights by creating the scan? Do the artists have any new copyright in their scan? If the museum wanted to control scanning of objects, can they use copyright? If you are one of those folks, this post is an take on to donate you a few answers.

Is Scanning the Bust Copyright Infringement?

No. The bust itself is additional than 3,000 years old. There was no concept of copyright when it was made (as far as I can tell—legal scholars of ancient Egypt, prove me wrong!), and we are well beyond the current life plus 70 years term of copyright protection in modern times. The bust is firmly in the public domain and, at very least of a copyright point of view, on the market for anyone to copy, remix, and turn it into upon without permission.

Do the Artists Who Created the Scan Have Rights in Their Scan?

Most most likely not. In the United States the creator of a digital scan does not get a copyright on the scan file independent of the object being scanned. The situation is a bit less clear in the EU, but there are sturdy
arguments [outlined here] to come to the same conclusion.

Note which
this is various than how photographs are treated. Why the difference? The short adaptation is which
copyright is turn it intod to reward creativity. These types of digital scans may take a lot of work to be accurate, but they are turn it intod to avoid introducing creative variation into the file. The goal of the scan is to copy the object as perfectly as possible – integrating creative interpretation may be circumvent to which
purpose. (If this explanation feels incomplete to you, store watching this space. We’re working on a whitepaper which
takes a bit of a deeper dive into the issue.)

Can Museums Stop This Sort of Scanning?

Not with copyright. But
, there are potentially other ways. Museums control access to the artifacts and can condition which
access on all sorts of rules. Just as they can need you to pay a fee or leave your bags at the door in order to see an artifact, they can say which
in return for access to the artifact you agree to not take a scan.

, which
sort of restriction has at very least two shortcomings. First, enforcement is restricted to folks who agree to the terms. That means which
they can punish the man who physically accessed the object for violating the terms. But a man who only downloaded the scan never agreed to those terms – and therefore shouldn’t be held responsible for violating them.

Second, as this incident vividly illustrates, attempting to prevent scanning may be a fool’s errand. Whilst museums may be able-bodied to impose these sorts of rules, it may be advantageous in the long run to turn it into their own high-high end scans and release them instead of waiting for bootleg adaptations to leak out.

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