Italian government: “You took some photographs of ancient art!? PAY ME!”

Among the monuments of Mithras is CIMRM 584, a relief showing the tauroctony, Mithras killing the bull.  It was probably found in Rome, but is today in Venice, as part of the Zulian bequest.  I came across a photograph online, and added it to the catalogue of Mithraic monuments.

CIMRM 584, tauroctony of Mithras from the museo archeologico at Venice.

While googling, I found another photograph at Wikimedia commons here, taken by some visitor to the museum.  But on the page was this extraordinary claim:

With this claim:

This image reproduces a property belonging to the Italian cultural heritage as entrusted to the Italian government. Such images are regulated by Articles 106 et seq. of the Italian Code of Cultural Heritage and Landscape under Legislative Decree No. 42, dated January 22, 2004, and its subsequent amendments. These regulations, unrelated to copyright regulations, establish a system for the protection of Italy’s historic and artistic heritage and its standards of dignity. Among other things, these regulations provide for the payment of a concession fee by those who intend to benefit economically from reproductions of property belonging to the Italian cultural heritage. Reproduction of this image is permitted for personal use or study. A further authorization by the Italian Ministry of Heritage and Culture is required for reproduction for any other purpose, and particularly for commercial use. Such commercial use includes, but is not limited to, use in (a) any form of advertising, and (b) any company name, logo, trademark, image, activity, or product.

It is quite extraordinary stuff.  An ancient Roman carves a relief; a modern man takes a snap of it with a digital camera; and somehow the officialdom of the modern Italian state (created 1870) must receive a fee?  How nice for them.

In practice, I am sure, this is largely ignored.  One feature of corrupt states is that they pass endless oppressive laws that are only enforced when some powerful or greedy individual chooses.  In this way the police can always find an excuse to arrest someone, because everyone is per force guilty of something.  In practice it impoverishes everyone.

So the next time you go to Italy and take a photograph of the forum, remember this curious edict.  Whether you abide by it, of course, is another matter.


15 thoughts on “Italian government: “You took some photographs of ancient art!? PAY ME!”

  1. That is an *impressive* hammer to money-grab– I can think of a lot of ways to profit from “Italian cultural heritage,” with extra focus on fun like declaring the Holy See to be part of that “heritage,” or the Mafia and thus the Godfather movies or any other mob-media…..

  2. I would have more sympathy if the image was being exploited for commercial purposes, but otherwise.

  3. Roger you needn’t worry about this. It’s posted to warn advertisers who might use the image in an ad campaign (for profit) The resource is merely stating that “if you make money using my stuff, we need to figure out how much of that money should be mine” It’s a basic disclaimer and has no effect on what you might do with it. Practically speaking, it’s like showing a picture of a huge dog when you actually own a toy poodle. It serves more to frighten people that to warn of actual peril. I was in advertising

  4. When I come to the States I have to observe so many rules, which are veryy crazy for me

  5. True! I think that it’s because many Americans are crazy. But they only get two weeks of holiday a year, so it is not a surprise.

    I remember my only visit to the US, back in 1984. We had lunch boxes with fresh tomatos. The sour-faced immigration woman barked at us – we were all of 24 years old – “I’ll have to have these sterilised!” But we’d already eaten our lunches. So I replied, “Feel free”. She looked almost disappointed and didn’t bother. The funny part of that threat was that we all knew that the US sends agricultural parasites to us, not us to them. So we smiled to ourselves. But perhaps people at borders are mad everywhere.

  6. “…concession fee by those who intend to benefit economically from reproductions of property belonging to the Italian cultural heritage.” This only pertains to people who were going to use the image on an advertisement for men’s cologne or the like, not to the average tourist or scholar. It’s the same in the U.S. for images of items in any museum collection in the U.S. and I suspect the UK. Even in the example mentioned, it’s probably rarely enforced, but the notice allows them to if they want.

  7. It’s the same in the U.S. for images of items in any museum collection in the U.S. and I suspect the UK.

    That is incorrect for the US.

    They are all covered by the public domain artwork laws; if the item itself is outside of protection, you can take your own photograph and use it (say, for a book cover) without any problems. The photograph belongs to the individual.

    Some museums offer public domain photographs of their collections exactly because it cuts down on how many people are obnoxious in getting their desired shot, as well as with legal issues where people would take the museum’s photograph of their collection or displays and use that. The third party’s photograph is under a different copyright protection.

  8. I think the Italian law dates to 2004. At that time institutions in both US and UK were trying to find ways to exploit the new medium for profit. I remember the British Library asking me for $12,000 to photograph 3 manuscripts, and $800 a year to host them on the Tertullian Project website. Of course it never happened. But in that case at least they were doing some work, and they did own the photos. What put an end to this was the smartphone. Once every visitor has a camera, enforcement is impossible.

    I see there is some doubt as to what the Italian law actually says. I had read it as saying that any photo taken of anything cultural was the property of the state. But it does make more sense if we read it as “stuff in museums where someone is watching and can enforce his claim”. (I wonder if photography is still banned in the Capitoline museum in Rome?)

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