Technoheritage has a property problem

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So people need permission to copy digitally rendered sculpture penises? This is the opposite of how the internet actually works. I’d start Penister (like Napster, but for statue genitals), but this being the internet and all, I’m pretty sure it already exists, and the prospect of googling it terrifies and arouses me.


The authors make the mistake of assuming the “public good” is important. It was rejected decades ago. Today even corporate benefaction is calculated to increase profits.


to (ahem) expand on that idea, we need to get 3-D scans of the collection of Cynthia Plaster Caster into the public domain ASAP.


This is a bigger problem than what is discussed, but it’s a very good example. The issue is that most things that are meant to be in the public domain aren’t. How is it that there’s laws, standards and codes hidden behind paywalls? Why does Harvard owns the intellectual property on the Blue Book as far as law citation standards go ? Why is publicly funded research and it’s derivatives locked away from public access? There’s so many examples of these shennanigans that it boggles the mind how these things have been stolen from the public interest/domain.


Does anything prevent Feist Publications, Inc., v. Rural Telephone Service Co. from being a major spoiler for anyone attempting to keep too tight a grip on such digitizations?

A museum would certainly be well placed to keep a bunch of nerds with loads of scanning equipment out of the exhibit hall on assorted crowding/curatorial concern/etc. grounds; but (unlike a photograph, where it would be relatively easy to argue some sort of artistic intent in the composition) something specifically intended to be a faithful digitization would seem like it’d only be copyright worthy in ‘sweat of brow’ or ‘database rights’ jurisdictions.

That wouldn’t stop them from making access to the dataset require assenting to a giant contract that imposes all the restrictions and more that copyright would have; and it doesn’t necessarily cover any nice, cleaned-up, carefully manually massaged, data; but what leg would one have to stand on if a copy of the raw scan were to…make its way into the wild?

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Scraping away the Cult of Open language, I can see how this does become an interesting issue. Maybe in an alternate past, the giant Buddha statues of Afghanistan could have been digitally preserved before the Taliban destroyed em. Same for the various things the Islamic State has destroyed. Not to mention various Greek/Roman artifacts that get stolen to fund Hezbollah.

Damage and loss aside, digitization can certainly extend access to museum collections to those who can not physically get there in person and perhaps even enable new research on the artifacts. The list of merits would certainly be quite long.

OTOH, the researchers developing the systems to do such scanning, the museums who host the artifacts, etc. are not really under any total obligation to work for Free or that the results of their work should serve the alter of the Cult of Open.


I once read (but can’t find a source to confirm) that when they commissioned a replica of Michelangelo’s David for Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas there was some discussion over whether or not to scale up that part of the statue. I imagine doing so would be a simple point-and-click affair these days.


This is the sort of thing the UN should be good for; to come up with some sort of fund to buy all this stuff to put in the commons.

UNESCO does fund some preservation efforts AFAIK but considering how even UNESCO has become captive to the politics of Islamism, I cant say I trust them. Pretty much every UN agency ends up the same.

Lest it just look like I’m railing against a particular thing, I can think of other reasons why a UN takeover of museums and artifacts just would not work out in the public interest. Some of the recent international disagreements over who rightfully owns artifacts for example. Lots of wonderful historical artifacts were found in countries that currently cant manage themselves functionally much less manage preservation of said artifacts. A UN takeover would just end up with more political battles over ownership and funding of preservation.

As unpleasant as this may seem to the Gospel of BoingBoing, Imperialism and the donations/whims of the Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams are in fact what has made (and to a large degree continues to make) lots of this stuff available to the public to begin with.

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The new British Museums Association Code of Ethics makes it quite clear that it condemns valuation of cultural heritage by cultural and Heritage organisations as unethical behaviour.

true of private institutions, but public museums and universities ought to, though?

I’m not sure that public museums and universities obligations extend that far. Its certainly nice when those institutions extend the reach of their collections by say digitizing/imaging rare documents and making the results available at no charge but are they really under any obligation to make the underlying methodology and data conform to any particular format that the Cult of Open may desire? I dont think so. In actuality, I’m not sure they are even obliged to extend their collection of artifacts digitally to begin with, its just a nice thing and generally happens because some donor or patron pays for it.

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hold on. Sometimes it would be nice if a museum adhered to some of the best practices of instead of developing their own buggy, obsolete, and poorly organized in house solution.

The real issue is that Museums frequently make a lot of money on the sale of books-- money which they can use to sustain the museum, and asking them to spend money on a publically accessible database which might eat into existing revenue sources is a hard sell.

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