Copyright Terrorism

The Dunhuang Grottoes are one of China’s richest archaeological treasures. Built during the 4th through 14th centuries, they are a 1,000-year-old ancient art gallery of cave architecture, sculptures and murals. Rediscovered in 1900, the region has been listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1987. Despite over 100 years of exploration and study, the mysteries of the grottoes are as great as the lessons they teach us.

Now, it would seem that The Dunhuang Academy is claiming ownership of all images associated with these 1000 year old treasures. A story at TeleRead explains:

What would Confusius think of this? In Virtual treasures get real protection, the Web site of People’s Daily says:

[quote]Digital technology is being used to conserve the Mogao Grottoes of Dunhuang, in Northwest China’s Gansu Province.

The “Digital Dunhuang” project, which aims to pool all the treasures from Dunhuang, has also paid close attention to protect its intellectual property rights (IPR) in the digital era.

The Dunhuang Academy, solely authorized by the Chinese Government as the official institute in charge of the protection, research and management of treasures in the Dunhuang grottoes, has announced that it holds all rights to images of the ancient treasures under Chinese IPR laws.

It has obtained copyrights to digital images of the murals, statues and documents from Dunhuang’s grottoes.

No other entity, business or institution, can reproduce, transmit or display the images of Dunhuang in any form without the consent of the right holder…

Just what we need to presereve and encourage the spread of culture, eh? (Sarcasm alert.)[/quote]

The article is inspecific, but is it possible that text books would need to license images of the grottoes from Dunhuang Academy, rather than competing photographers or image libraries? Will Dunhuang Academy exercise its monopoly by raising prices? Will publishers respond by limited coverage of the grottoes simply to control costs?

Think it wouldn’t happen? The History Channel fills its programming schedule with so many World War II documentaries precisely because the source images are extremely cheap or in the public domain. Important and instructive pieces of history are being lost to copyright, and so long as Congress continues to extend copyright terms, they may be lost forever.

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  1. Pingback: Intellectual Property Expert Group (ipeg) » Blog Archive » China learning fast in IPR, also the bad habits

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