Friday, December 28, 2007

More re Egypt to copyright antiquities

Associated Press

Egypt might copyright its pharaonic antiquities, from the pyramids to scarab beetles, in an attempt to get paid from the sale of replicas, an official said Thursday.

It was unclear whether such a copyright would be recognized internationally.

Antiquities chief Zahi Hawass said it would apply only to exact replicas — including scale — meaning someone would have to build a full-size copy of the giant pyramids for it to violate the copyright.

"If you (want to) build an exact copy of the Great Pyramid we will stop you," Hawass told The Associated Press.

The provision is part of a new draft antiquities law that Hawass before the Egyptian parliament. The bill would also mandate life imprisonment for antiquities smugglers, an attempt to crack down on theft of Egypt's heritage.

Under the law, anyone seeking to make an exact replica of a copyrighted pharaonic artifact would have to seek permission from and pay a fee to Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities.

The draft bill comes amid recent complaints in Egyptian media about money being made by the pyramid-shaped Las Vegas Luxor casino.

But Hawass said that and other ancient Egyptian-themed parks and malls around the world would not be affected by the copyright law.

Egyptian lawyer Hossam Lutfi, an expert with the U.N.'s World Intellectual Property Organization, said the draft may be baffling since the authors of the works in question are long gone.

However, UNESCO and Lufti's organization are trying to develop the idea — which still has not won wide backing — that a nation has the right to defend how its folklore and heritage are used internationally.

International Herald Tribune

Jeffrey P. Weingart, lawyer with New York-based Thelen Ried Brown Raysman & Steiner LLP, said the scope of the new Egyptian draft bill is unclear "in terms what it seeks to prohibit and what exceptions apply."

"It's also unclear how a novel law such as this one would play in terms of international copyright treaties, enforcement and subject matter," Weingart, who has long dealt with copyright laws in the U.S., told The Associated Press.

"Anytime someone seeks to promote and profit from artistic or photographic expression, one walks a fine line between promoting its use on the one hand and protecting material on the other," cautioned Weingart.

Guardian Unlimited (Rory McCarthy)

Zahi Hawass, head of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, said his country wanted to own the copyright to its historic monuments and would use any money raised to pay for the upkeep of its most prestigious sites.

Hawass, an outspoken figure in the usually cautious world of antiquities, said the law had been agreed by a ministerial committee and would go before parliament, where it was expected to be passed easily. It would then apply anywhere in the world, he said.

Hawass gave no explanation as to how Cairo would begin the fraught task of tackling any copyright infringements.

He said the law would apply to full-scale, precise copies of any museum objects or "commercial use" of ancient monuments, including the pyramids or the sphinx. "Even if it is for private use, they must have permission from the Egyptian government," he told the BBC.

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