Back in 2019 Techdirt wrote about a fascinating case with a fake CC license on a 3D scan of a 3,000-year-old bust of Nefertiti. The person at the heart of the saga was artist and open access activist Cosmo Wenman. His website contains some background information on 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 these 3D scans with the public so that we can view, copy, adapt, and experiment with the underlying works in ways never seen before. But some keep their scans out of the public eye, and I’ve tried to help them see the light.
After his success in freeing the 3-D scan of Nefertiti, Wenman is now trying to do the same with 3-D scans of the works of the great French sculptor Auguste Rodin. Many of these scans were made by the Musée Rodin in Paris. There is a long and entertaining article (in original French and English translations – pdf) about Wenman’s pursuit of 3D scans and the Musée Rodin’s refusal to share them. Wenman took an interesting turn, claiming that the museum’s 3D scans were documents subject to French Freedom of Information Laws (FOIA). It worked:
In late 2018, I sent a formal request to the Musée Rodin for access to all of its 3D scans, citing French freedom of information laws. When the museum refused to do so, I brought the matter to the French government.
In June 2019, the French government agency overseeing FOIA affairs announced its first opinion in my favor. 3D scans made by French national museums are administrative documents and are subject to public disclosure. The Musée Rodin is required by law to give the public access to its 3D scans of Rodin’s works.
Another win for Wenman, but a hollow one. Despite the decision of the French government agency, Musée Rodin continues to withhold the 3D scans. Wenman filed a lawsuit against the museum in the Paris Administrative Court. Wenman wants the court to force the museum to comply with the law and impose “substantial” fines for any delay. After more than a year with no response, the court ordered the museum to come up with a defense. At the time of writing, Wenman is still waiting. However, given the unambiguous nature of the judgments against the Musée Rodin, he is confident:
The Musée Rodin will fight, but I expect a victory. The result will affect every national museum in France, inform the politics of institutions around the world and have an interesting impact on the art market.
I strive for victory for open access and freedom and innovation in the arts.
The impact of a person’s persistent pursuit of a few computer files could have a huge impact on the greater availability of 3D scans of sculptures and ancient artifacts – a real win for the public.
Immediate Public Gain: The court will likely force the Rodin Museum to publish its 3D scans of the sculptor’s works for free
More Techdirt Legal Stories:
AT&T complains that California’s net neutrality rules force them to behave
The Court of Appeal’s decision shows that Cleveland Police are more concerned with being lied to than with officers killing children
Data shows the NYPD seized 55,000 phones in 2020; Less than 35,000 returned to their rightful owners