Between copyright and public information law, 3D technology is raising questions. From the British Museum to the Rodin Museum, would we have the right to obtain communication of 3D scans of works of art?
Originating in the 1980s, 3D printing and scanning technology has proven to be an extraordinary tool for cultural heritage conservation and research activities, such as Google’s “open heritage” project. Arts and Culture Institute. Therefore, the idea of scanning and “copying” certain cultural assets to restore the originals in the plundered countries is not to be underestimated. However, you still need to be able to access the works to create your 3D images. The Oxford Institute of Digital Archeology has also gained bitter experience after the British Museum banned it for Parthenon marbles, extracted from Greece by Lord Elgin in the 19th century.
An issue that is not without echoing that of the artist Cosmo Wenman who has been fighting for several years against the Rodin Museum in order to achieve the communication of the 3D scans of the sculptures, in particular the a kiss i Thinker, in order to be able to market reproductions. Problem? The museum fears that its financial model, which is based in part on the production of original bronze editions, could be compromised. Behind this textbook case, 3D scans of works of art from public collections are caught up in the mess of copyright and public information.
A blacklist of copyright?
We know that any use of copyrighted works outside the private sphere is an offense. Digitization and 3D printing of a creation also implements the artist’s reproduction right, and must therefore be authorized by the artist, while the publication of 3D scans online without the permission of the artist. author constitutes a violation of his right of representation. At the same time, the moral rights of the author will also be undermined when the reproduction by 3D printing, although authorized by the author, is of poor quality or made in a material or color other than the original work.
The works of Auguste Rodin are in the public domain of copyright, the museum would only retain one latitude to act on the basis of moral rights. The engraving of the original bronzes being perfectly framed, the respectability of the museum cannot be questioned. Such is the ambition of the recent letter “3D Printing” from the Ministry of Culture, which aims to reduce the risk of counterfeiting or artistic counterfeiting. Moreover, if the Rodin Museum could be tempted to invoke intellectual property over 3D files, it seems, as estimated in a report on 3D printing by the Higher Council for Literary and Artistic Property in 2016, that those created by a simple digitization would bear no imprint of the author’s personality and could not be protected by copyright.
The necessary liberalization of public data
On the other hand, in the field of public information law, the Commission for Access to Administrative Documents (CADA) estimated in 2019 that the 3D scans produced by the Rodin Museum, and therefore the French public museums, they were administrative documents that could be communicated. to the public. The CADA considered that neither the considerations extracted from the modality of financing of the public establishment, nor the quality of beneficiary of the Rodin museum were susceptible to found a refusal to the communication, insofar as its perpetuity of the moral right would come emptying of its substance. the same principle of reusing public information.
Faced with resistance from the museum, Cosmo Wenman finally cited the establishment. The ruling of the Paris Administrative Court is therefore eagerly awaited because this dispute raises important issues for cultural institutions. Between the articulation of its public service missions and the accomplishment of its commercial missions, it would be illusory to believe that museums have an exclusive monopoly on the works in their collections. If the legislature has provided for an exception to the free re-use of public data in cultural matters, this view is no longer sustainable at a time when theopen data Culture plays a crucial role in arts and culture education, science, cultural heritage and public information. The game of freedom of cultural trade must be allowed to thrive: the worlds of art have everything to gain.