Perceptions of 3D Scanning and Copies


(Jerryfisher) #1

I had to make this argument at 3Dprint.com. I think I am correct about my opinion, but tell me what you think?

3D Preservation (and accessibility to the public)

“Still 3D printed models of archaeological artifacts or relics could also be misused. Would people rather see an original ancient relic or fossil in it’s damaged state or a perfectly 3D restored piece? Also, if anyone can recreate an ancient artifact, will that make museums irrelevant? And what happens to copyright laws?”

People frequently see items as they are now. They can see a representative small number of restored pieces, such as fossils, antiquities, architecture, sites and sculpture around the world in museums or in situ. The original items are in no danger of being rendered irrelevant. Those copies are important for helping people to better understand an item.

Over a century ago replicas and casts of the great masterpieces of sculpture were common in schools and easily purchased at a low price from various museums and catalogs (Caproni Brothers of Boston comes to mind). It was more about making a statement about the education and social status of a person to have a replica of works of art, but those same reproductions also had an unintended consequence. They gave people an opportunity to experience other seemingly esoteric things and concepts.

Finally, copyright. Why? Why is this ever brought up? When ancient things were created, the concept of copyright didn’t exist. If it had, would we be so lucky to have numerous ancient copies of otherwise lost artwork from antiquity and later?

Nobody can copyright the Nike of Samothrace. Nobody can copyright the Parthenon or the Acropolis Marbles. The pyramids, the Great Sphinx and all the rest of antiquities across Egypt or in collections around the world CAN’T be copyrighted. They are in the public domain, period.

Egypt has raised strong arguments to the contrary but wider laws doesn’t support a radical concept such as claiming copyright. Egypt is making an effort to control how it’s public domain items are used. Egypt’s government should reconsider its bullying of other nations and institutions as it can leave a negative impression on the public. It might be in bad taste to have the mask of Tutankhamun or the bust of Nefertiti being used to sell something, but it also demonstrates that they have a cultural resonance today. Isn’t that what is most important?

Museums will never become irrelevant. I’ve never met a single person who was satisfied with a copy or replica and decided seeing the original was unnecessary. Remember the mixed reactions of the public upon learning that the tomb of Tutankhamen had been painstakingly reproduced for visitors? It was done to protect the fragile original. Many visitors to Egypt were uninterested in visiting the copy as they felt it didn’t have the intangible value that visiting the original has. They still go to the Valley of the Kings and other sites and want access to real things and places.

Reproductions of rare, valuable and ancient items should be encouraged as a way of making these wonderful things more accessible to a wider audience. They can begin to better appreciate the significance of things that they might not otherwise have seen aside from a photo or video. As alluded to before and here, they also serve as a record that can have incredible value for preservation and study.

We are by nature a tactile species. Having replicas we can interact with helps bridge the gap between merely looking at something versus actually feeling the surface and handling an item.

The public perceptions of art, antiquities, and other things being only for elitists drops away. If this is what motivates resistance to having our shared patrimony made more widely available, I think it speaks volumes about the people making the arguments. They need to step back and reconsider what they were taught and how they should think about the greater public they serve.

Finally, I make these arguments thinking back to the 1970s when I was a young child. I lived in a small, rural town in Texas. I became fascinated with ancient sculpture. Places like Pompeii, Egypt, Athens and many others were exotic and fantastical things. Photos in books were great, but they usually presented things from the same static spots.

It was difficult as a child to appreciate the virtuosity and incredible energy of the Nike of Samothrace. Not until I stumbled across a concrete copy in Miraflores, San Antonio, did the full impact of the original finally become clear to me. The copy isn’t that good but it made a profound impression on me that has never faded after nearly 50 years.


(Nebulousflynn) #3

Many thanks for this thoughtful piece of writing @jerryfisher!

I wonder if some copyright claims are bound up in wider politics and the histories that exist between nations, especially colonial nations like Britain. We are only on the very cusp of museums in the UK addressing their colonial pasts and this feeds in to discussions about ownership, repatriation and copyright.

I agree that ancient art cannot be copyrighted in the legal sense but do believe in the concept of ‘cultural owners’ and how this should be considered when using and reusing originals and copies alike. Another thing to remember is that, just like any other law, copyright law differs from country to country and can change (and indeed needs to) to accommodate changes in modern thinking.

I don’t profess to know a particular solution or perfect answer to the question of copyright and ownership with regards of cultural content (for want of a better word) but believe if we approach the topic with an open mind, a sense of respect for our neighbors we will see some amazing things come of the experiments and ideas being tested in the realm of 3D digitization today.

I’d love to hear what other people think about this too.