Long before the onset of the now-‐emblematic quarrel between England and Greece over the Parthenon marbles, nations and tribes have squabbled over the extraterritorial transfer of objects of purported cultural significance. Over the past few decades, however, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of cultural property repatriation claims, mostly targeting U.S. collections.
The value of cultural artifacts is generated largely by the intellectual expression they manifest. Digital technologies make increasingly possible the creation of reproductions of even three-‐dimensional artifacts, which are indistinguishable from the originals. This development challenges our attributing value to the “aura” of the original renderings of tangible cultural artifacts. Stripped of their auras, the worth of these objects devolves to the sum of the value of the physical materials deployed in their creation, and that ascribed to the perceptible intellectual expression they contain.
If we were to perceive cultural artifacts fundamentally as works of information rather than of tangible property, the location of the original instantiations of them would be of little significance. 3D technologies might soon permit source nations to retain the essential intellectual value of cultural artifacts found within their borders, while simultaneously capitalizing upon sales of the originals to collectors who will pay for their “aura”.
Entertainment, Arts, and Sports Law | Intellectual Property Law | Law
Date of this Version
Charles Cronin, "3D Printing: Cultural Property as Intellectual Property" (May 2015). University of Southern California Legal Studies Working Paper Series. Working Paper 160.