Forget The Pyramids, How About Copyrights For Michelangelo's Works?

from the hurray-for-bad-copyright dept

First we find out that Egypt is trying to abuse the concept of copyright law to add copyrights to the pyramids, and now comes a story from The Register about how things like the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel are involved in a copyright mess. The article at The Register is a bit confusing, unfortunately, and jumps around to a bunch of different things without ever tying them clearly back together or making a truly coherent point — but the key point is that the owners of certain artwork, which have long been in the public domain (much of which was created before the concept of copyright had ever been conceived of), are now asserting copyright over any photographs taken of that artwork. On top of that, the owners of such works, including the Sistine Chapel, are licensing out these “rights” over the artwork in exchange for cash to pay for restorations. So, in the case of the Sistine Chapel, the restoration was apparently paid for by the Japanese firm NHK in exchange for “exclusive rights” to the images of the restored Sistine Chapel. Unfortunately, the article doesn’t discuss how limited (or broad) the specific rights really are, but it does seem somewhat ridiculous to use copyright in such a manner.

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Comments on “Forget The Pyramids, How About Copyrights For Michelangelo's Works?”

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random cellist says:

I really hope that this copy writing of hight art within the realm of public domain doesn’t bleed into the music scene. I already have to pay close to 70 USD for scores of Ravel’s music since France law still holds his music under their copy write laws. This is just outrageous. Selling exclusive rights to art that is centuries old cannot be justified by any monetary value. Not to mention it is probably near impossible to strictly enforce. I hope that the Japanese firm realizes that in the end this transaction amounts to little more than a generous donation.

Anonymous Coward says:

Actually, i kind of like the idea with the sistine chapel…While the vatican may not own a “copyright” to the paintings there, they do own exclusive access to it. It is their right to charge people for coming in and taking photos of it, or selling that right to others. Of course they can’t prevent anyone from selling copies of existing prints of it. The copyrights will actually be owned by the photographer, of the photograph. Their rights will be to sue anyone who sells copies of those photos, as should be his right. On the other hand, everyone expects the vatican to pay for the restoration out of its own pocket, and be responsible for the upkeep and preservation of it. Why shouldnt they be able to charge to see it?

LBD says:

Re: Re:

That’s material possession. It’s very different from coppyright. it means “I own X. I do not want people to coppy my coppy of X. It is in my rights to prevent direct copies of the copy I own, though I have no rights over the image it’s self, and copies of the copies I allow are quite legal. I may also restrict veiwing of the copy I own. I may or may not own the original”

Mike (profile) says:

Re: ??? Profit!

Ah, Paul, you’re back again making incorrect assumptions and setting up strawmen. Why you keep doing that is beyond me.

Step 1: Make a classically bad Mike post

Well, I don’t see how it’s bad, but ok. Usually, if you think something is bad, you don’t just say “classically bad” you explain *why* it’s bad so that at least I have a chance to respond.

Of course, if you don’t actually have a reason and want to make up lies, then I guess it doesn’t matter…

Step 2: Being the classic comment-whore, check for comments every hour

Actually, after I posted this on Friday night I went away for the weekend and haven’t checked anything until now, two days later… but… ok.

Step 3: When there is no comments change the title of the post to make it seem like a new story

And here’s where you have gone totally off the rails. When did I change the title? I didn’t. The title of this post has been the same since I wrote it. And, as I said, I haven’t even checked in on Techdirt since Friday evening so I’m not sure why you think I either checked on the comments or changed the title.

You also seem confused as to my motivations. If a post doesn’t get comments, that doesn’t bother me. I’m not sure why you think it would.

Paul, do you ever get sick of making stuff up trying to make me look bad? It’s really rather unbecoming. What’s funny is that I’ve called you on it all week every time you’ve put up a strawman or lied and you haven’t apologized once. I’d really ask that if you’re going to challenge me you at least don’t do it with outright lies.

Otherwise, you just come off as being rather sad.

Mike (profile) says:


Seriously. The paper I told you to read, remember the “moreover” thing in that legal thing with the RIAA? . Well, here it is. This is the “moreover”.

Hmm. Actually, all that looks like is the Washington Post making the same mistake based on the same story and the same quotes from Ray Beckerman.

Repeating the same incorrect statement without any new evidence doesn’t make it true…

Comboman says:

Restoration is a derivative work

So, in the case of the Sistine Chapel, the restoration was apparently paid for by the Japanese firm NHK in exchange for “exclusive rights” to the images of the restored Sistine Chapel.

The operative word there is “restored”. This would be a derivative work and could legitimately be copyrighted starting with the date the restoration was complete. They can’t control old photos or reproductions of the painting, but photos or reproductions of the restored painting are copyrighted.

Richard W. Davis says:

Copyrights and Patents

Since my great great; etc., grandfather was Cain, I claim patent on stones for use as tools. Able was my Uncle so I also claim all rights to agriculture too. A cousin of mine used a wheeled cart to haul firewood so I’m claiming my rights to wheels and fire. I think I need a lawyer.

P.S. One of my people drew the first rectangle in the sand way back then, so all the roofs in Egypt and elsewhere are my infringed property. Long ago a family member had a cow so rights to all bullshit belong to me, so all lawyers, politicians and bloggers can cease and desist until I am properly compensated.

P.P.S. Don’t any of you say dammit either in response to my post…All the curse words are surely mine as well.

P.P.P.S. I had a college professor once who said, “There are only three things that can come out of a human’s mouth: Crap.
Bull crap,
and Cosmic Elephant Crap.”

Note: He said if first, but he didn’t copyright it, so that too is mine.

See ya,
Coyote Davis

Doc says:


And the courts have found that you don’t get charged per “copy” you infringe, but “per copy per store”, as they assume copyright infringement is happening in all of a particular business’ outlets.
So…. If Wal-Mart gets caught by the copyright police for selling one “Garfield” birthday cake without paying royalties, they can be fined not just once for $100 (for example), but $200 x 3400 stores, or $680,000… Ouch!

So pay up and shut up…or Garfield will hunt you down and eat you!

Duodave (user link) says:

Commissioned work

Technically, the Sistine Chapel ceiling was a commissioned work. As such, its copyright is held by the Catholic Church. However, as I understand copyright law, anything made before a certain date before copyright law was created is exempt from copyright law. Hence, a work commissioned in 1508 is not subject to copyright law.

If the Japanese firm “restored” the work to its original form, I would think that they could not hold copyrights to the restoration, as it restored it to the original form, not a modification.

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