3D Scanning: A World without Copyright

I concur with Weinberg’s (2016) argument that “copyright does not – and should not – protect 3D scans,” (p1) partly because 3D scans do not necessarily come under the remit of being creative unless the scan is expressive.  If a 3-dimensional scan proves to be expressive of an artistic nature or originality then it can have claim for copyright in its own right.  Most 3-dimensional scans are representative of the object being scanned with no originality or artistic ability or talent having taken place.    The purpose of 3D scanning is to capture the object exactly as is it, otherwise what is the point.   A scanned object creates data, so a computerised machine can understand what the object is and recreate it.  So yes there may be copyright laws on the object being scanned and on the computer software program being used and the machines being used, but not so for the scanned copy, because it is not an original.    

Thursday Salute to Originals: M-R-I or A-R-T?

Cronin (2016)  agrees with Weinberg (2016) stating that most 3D scans are scans of “objects best identified as the cultural legacy of humanity”  Cronin suggests that “3D printing technologies, therefore not only promote more democratic access to geographically disperse cultural works, but also advance the dissolution of divisive cultural, political, and geographic boundaries.” (p4)   As Weinberg states  “Since copyright requires an author, the role of a human in the creation of a work is key.” (p4)

“turning science into art, and revealing beauty concealed beneath the peel…” GPI Design

As I investigate the matter of 3D copyright further, I discover many aspects of originality and expressive forms of 3 dimensional scanning, which in their own right deserve copyright.

“It is only a question of time before 3D laser scanners become the favorite creative tool of all the digital artists out there.” Scott Page (2013)


Cronin, C. 2016
‘Possession is 99% of the Law: 3D Printing, Public Domain Cultural Artefacts and Copyright’, University of Southern California Law School, Legal Studies Research Papers Series, Paper 205, pp1-26.

Page, S. 2013
3D Laser Scanning Reinvents Architecture and Art at the Same Time.

Weinberg, M. 2016
‘3D scanning: A World Without Copyright’, Shapeways, pp1-16.

Limits of Digitization

Digitisation of an object can either make the object more or less popular for an audience.  For instance on one hand, digitisation can bring collection of data together, allowing for ease of reference and research, thus allowing an object to be widely available, creating a larger audience.  As in the case of

“page from the Frederick Weinstein Diary. Courtesy of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.”

the Frederick Weinstein Diary, Klinger suggests this wider audience sought to seek a viewing of the original object, increasing “requests to borrow” for exhibitions also requests from “researchers to see the originals.” (2016)  At the same time digitisation allows objects to be viewed in greater detail, to a wider audience for inspection and analysis, allowing an indepth inspection of an object, illuminating features that could be overlooked by the human eye, Like watermarks for instance or the ability to zoom in order to transcribe handwriting.

On the other hand, digitisation can limit the visibility of truth regarding an object, regarding the emotional state of both the landscape and timescape surrounding an object.  To hold a book for instance can endorse a sense of wonder and joy for a participant.  The outer cover, the binding, typeface, year and place of print, all could bring the pariticipant on a journey of discovery of both time and place of an object.  For instance, Davis (2012) suggests that if “The Secret Museum of Anthropology” were to be digitized, we would lose the covertness of its creation”


Davies (2012) suggests that the essence of time, place and purpose of the book would be lost through digitisation.


Davis, J. 2012

Klinger, Jane E. Exploring the Limits of Digitization, European Holocaust Research Infrastructure (EHRI)