Imminent Win For The Public Domain: Court Likely To Compel Musée Rodin To Release Its 3D Scans Of Sculptor's Works For Free

from the why-even-fight-this? dept

Back in 2019, Techdirt wrote about a fascinating case involving a bogus CC license on a 3D scan of a 3000-year-old bust of Nefertiti. The person at the heart of the saga was the artist and open access activist Cosmo Wenman. His web site has some background on what he calls his “freedom of information projects“:

For more than a decade, museums around the world have been making high-quality 3D scans of important sculptures and ancient artifacts. Many institutions freely share those 3D scans with the public, allowing us to view, copy, adapt, and experiment with the underlying works in ways that have never before been possible. But some keep their scans out of public view, and I’ve been trying to help them see the light.

Following his success in liberating the 3D scan of Nefertiti, Wenman is now trying to do the same with 3D scans of the works of the great French sculptor Auguste Rodin. Many of these scans have been created by the Musée Rodin in Paris. There is a long and entertaining article (in the original French and an English translation – pdf) about Wenman’s pursuit of the 3D scans, and of the Musée Rodin’s refusal to share them. Wenman took an interesting tack, claiming that the museum’s 3D scans were documents subject to France’s freedom of information (FOIA) laws. It worked:

In late 2018 I sent a formal demand to Musée Rodin for access to all its 3D scans, citing French freedom of information laws. When the museum refused to comply, I brought the matter before the French government.

In June of 2019 the French government agency that oversees FOIA matters announced its first-of-its-kind opinion, in my favor; 3D scans produced by French national museums are in fact administrative documents and are subject to public disclosure. Musée Rodin is required by law to give the public access to its 3D scans of Rodin’s works.

Another victory for Wenman, then, but rather a hollow one. Despite the French government agency’s ruling, Musée Rodin continues to withhold the 3D scans. Wenman went on to file a suit against the museum in the Administrative Tribunal of Paris. Wenman wants the court to compel the museum to comply with the law, and to impose “significant” financial penalties for any delay. After more than a year with no response, the court directed the museum to present a defense. At the time of writing, Wenman is still waiting. However, given the unequivocal nature of the rulings against the Musée Rodin, he is confident:

Musée Rodin is going to fight, but I expect to win. The outcome will affect every national museum in France, inform policies at institutions around the world, and have interesting effects on the art market.

I?m shooting for a victory for open access, and freedom and innovation in the arts.

The knock-on effects of one person’s dogged pursuit of a few computer files could have a major impact on the wider availability of 3D scans of sculptures and ancient artifacts — a real win for the public domain.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter, Diaspora, or Mastodon.

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Comments on “Imminent Win For The Public Domain: Court Likely To Compel Musée Rodin To Release Its 3D Scans Of Sculptor's Works For Free”

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Major Rollo Vercollision says:

Re: Comrades! Our forces have won a glorious victory today!

The end of copyright is in sight!

… Reminds me of the announcements from "1984".

You too about to pee your pants, eh?

Tell me how many times you’ve regarded Rodin’s pieces. I bet ZERO. So state how this affects you personally, not the wacky woozy cringe-worthy vague globalism you wrote.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The end of copyright is in sight!

Oh, if only.

Tell me how many times you’ve regarded Rodin’s pieces. I bet ZERO.

Even if that’s true — and for once in your likely misery-filled life it is — that fact is irrelevant. The public domain growing in any way opens up new opportunities for new cultural works to come into existence. Whether it’s The Great Gatsby or 3D scans of Rodin’s sculptures, any addition to the public domain benefits all peoples.

The public domain is what allows culture to grow and change. To celebrate its growth is to celebrate culture. To decry its growth — or to wish it shrunk or closed altogether — is to commit cultural vandalism. I ask of you: Do you decry, or do you celebrate?

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I’ll take the other half of that. Never read Gatsby, doubt I ever will: but I have gazed upon Rodin; I have spent time looking at various virtual museums; and I have a long list of museum-curated artifacts I would love to look at.

Granted, there are people with no interests in the world but sports, soaps, and malicious talk; and this suit will give them no help. There may even be people that make the world better, that are color-blind to art. But what of that? Shall we do nothing but evil, because nothing good we do affects everyone on earth?

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Not an Electronic Rodent (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Even if that’s true — and for once in your likely misery-filled life it is — that fact is irrelevant.

Probably not true, as it goes…. Copies of Rodin’s famous "The Kiss" show up in the background of many a film scene in posh houses, for example…

BernardoVerda (profile) says:

Re: Re: Comrades! Our forces have won a glorious victory today!

Tell me how many times you’ve regarded Rodin’s pieces. I bet ZERO. So state how this affects you personally…

There’s this thing called ‘circular reasoning’ or ‘circular logic’ (not to mention more academic, formal names with fancy Greek or Latin labels).

The point of this description is that circular reasoning is well understood to be simply, even self-evidently, not valid. In cases like this, its even an evident argument against your position — the colloquial name for that is an "own goal".

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Comrades! Our forces have won a glorious victory tod

It’s more the classic strawman argument. Our resident shortbus rider here is incapable of addressing any actual opinion or position held by a writer or commenter here, so he has to invent something in order to attack. The fact that his inventions bear no relation to reality is secondary in his mind to "winning" an argument against a figment of his imagination.

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Major Rollo Vercollision says:

You're about to pee your pants with excitement.

Gosh, this is thrilling. I’ll be able to look from every angle at works I don’t even know exist!

BTW: Ayn Rand said of Rodin’s (assuming this is THAT Rodin) "Thinker" that it looks tortured by the act of thinking, not really inspiring.

Also, I’m not entirely up with compelling release of data rather than allowing others to make it. The data can still be proprietary…

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: You're about to pee your pants with excitement.

Ayn Rand was a rather poor author and had a really stupid personal philosophy. She really blew it for me, in Atlas Shrugged, with the guy who found oil in the rockies, just because he was one of her "great men". Not that I was particularly taken before that.

Quoting Ayn Rand is a really unpersuasive tactic.

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PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: You're about to pee your pants with excitement.

"Ayn Rand was a rather poor author and had a really stupid personal philosophy."

Which she was happy to throw out the moment she needed to depend on government benefits.

“There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs."

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Preserving history... behind a paywall

Positively delightful, looks like the people running that museum have gotten things mixed up and consider the purpose of museums to preserve culture and history, but only in a specific where they get to dictate the terms rather than in a manner that can be enjoyed and appreciated more widely.

Despite the French government agency’s ruling, Musée Rodin continues to withhold the 3D scans. Wenman went on to file a suit against the museum in the Administrative Tribunal of Paris. Wenman wants the court to compel the museum to comply with the law, and to impose "significant" financial penalties for any delay. After more than a year with no response, the court directed the museum to present a defense. At the time of writing, Wenman is still waiting.

If anything would justify those financial penalties that would certainly be it. A legal ruling against them is made and rather than comply they just ignore the court, the ruling made against them and the one who filed the lawsuit, to the point that a year afterwards another court finds itself telling them that they need to present some sort of defense for their refusal.

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