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Cultural Heritage Law & the PD

A preliminary review of the Italian legal setting

Federico Morando (federico.morando@VariousMailProvidersIncludingGoogle) These notes are licensed under a CC BY-SA 3.0 unported license

Main source of law

Legislative Decree 42/2004 (Code of Cultural Heritage and Landscape)

Since this law applies to cultural goods, it's important to define them...

Cultural (heritage) goods

Art. 10, par. 1, specifies that cultural (heritage) goods are the movable and immovable things property of the State, the regions and other territorial public administrations, and any other public entity or institution or non-profit private [!] entity, which show artistic, historical, archaeological or ethno -anthropological interest.


Par. 2 offers a list of specific cultural (heritage) goods, including a) the collections of museums, pinacoteques galleries and other exhibition venues owned bu the State, the regions, other territorial public bodies and any other public entity or institution; ...(omissis).

...and, to be sure:

Par. 3 mentions a series of objects that, because of their intrinsic artistic interest, are declared to be cultural (heritage) goods upon action of the appropriate branches of the Ministry.

eg., art. 12, par. 1 states that movable and immovable things... which are works of a died author and the creation of which happened more than fifty years ago, are subject to the dispositions of this Title... (omissis)

...and surer:

Other norms ensure that everything which is older than 50 years and has some kind of archeological context (including remnants from the II WW, for instance) is a cultural heritage good.

OK, almost every interesting old stuff is a cultural good... and so what?

An ambigous Law provision

Art. 107, titled Instrumental and precarious use and reproduction of cultural (heritage) goods, states at par. 1:

The Ministry, the regions and other territorial public administrations can consent to the reproduction and to the instrumental and precarious use of the cultural (heritage) goods of which they are custodians, without prejudice of the norms/dispositions of par. 2 and of the norms concerning copyright and authors' rights.

A unambigous Ministerial Decree

This rather general norm has then been specified by the Ministerial Decree of April 20, 2005 - Guidelines, criteria and modalities for the reproduction of cultural (heritage) goods, following art. 107 of Legislative Decree n. 42 of January 22, 2004. In particular, art. 3 of this Ministerial Decree states that the reproduction of cultural (heritage) goods is authorized by (or subject to the authorization of) the responsible of the Institute which is custodian of such goods....

A quasi-property right...

Article 5, par. 2, introduces some other relevant limitations concerning the material related to cultural (heritage) goods and apt to be further reproduced (photographic printing, negatives, slides, films, etc.), which cannot be reproduced or duplicated with any means, technique or procedure, without prior authorization of the administration which is custodian of the good and without prior payment of the related fees...

Art. 5. - Condizioni

1. Prima della diffusione al pubblico, un esemplare di ogni riproduzione e' depositato presso l'amministrazione che ha in consegna il bene, per il preventivo nulla osta. Salvo diverso accordo,
all'amministrazione spettano tre copie di ciascuna riproduzione, oltre ai negativi ed alle matrici delle copie medesime.

2. Il materiale relativo ai beni culturali ed idoneo ad ulteriori riproduzioni, (stampe fotografiche, negativi, diapositive, film, nastri, dischi ottici, supporti informatici, calchi, rilievi grafici ed altro) non puo' essere riprodotto o duplicato con qualsiasi strumento, tecnica o procedimento, senza preventiva autorizzazione dell'amministrazione che ha in consegna il bene e previo pagamento dei relativi canoni e corrispettivi. Restano altresi' salvi eventuali diritti e compensi agli autori e ai terzi. 3. Ogni uso delle copie ottenute, diverso da quello dichiarato nella domanda, e' autorizzato dall'amministrazione che ha in consegna il bene. 4. Ogni esemplare di riproduzione reca l'indicazione, nelle forme richieste dal caso, delle specifiche dell'opera originale (nome dell'autore, bottega o ambito culturale, titolo, dimensioni, tecniche e materiali, provenienza, data), della sua ubicazione, nonche' della tecnica e del materiale usato per la riproduzione. Esso riporta altresi' la dicitura che la riproduzione e' avvenuta previa autorizzazione dell'amministrazione che ha in consegna il bene, nonche' l'espressa avvertenza del divieto di ulteriore riproduzione o duplicazione con qualsiasi mezzo. 5. L'amministrazione che ha in consegna i beni e' esente da ogni responsabilita' per danni a persone o cose, provocati o comunque connessi alle attivita' di riproduzione e di diffusione al pubblico degli esemplari riprodotti.

A purpouse bound world

Then the Ministerial Decreee details the essential elements which should characterize a demand of reproduction, including (and starting from):

the purpose of the use (art. 4, par. 1, letter a)) and the quantity of copies that will be produced and made avaialable on the market (art. 4, par. 1, letter b)).

Say Bye to CC and most UGC

Even if no payment is due if a cultural heritage good is reproduced for purposes of personal usage or study or if it is used by other public entities to valorize the good... but still the authorization is required and purpose bound. Not a great setting for unexpected creative usages from somebody out there

Simplifying a bit:

Anything which is somehow interesting and old enough not to be protected by copyright is quite likely to be a cultural (heritage) good!

For instance: culturally and artistically relevant buildings in Italy are seldom (legally) illustrated on Wikipedia: their pictures are either copyright protected or subject to the Code of cultural heritage (or both!) The legal department of the Uffizi museum in Florence sent a warning to the Italian Wikimedia chapter...

...and if you're paranoid:

Old pictures of works of art collected in public archives can be cultural heritage goods themselves

From the point of view of copyright (rectius: related right on mere photographs), their protection would expire after 20 years... ...but if they're older than 50 years...


I'm not skilled in constitutional law, but the Italian Constitution should not leave much leeway for creation of new property rights by Ministerial Decree... If the Code of cultural heritage is interpreted in a restrictive way, it's the Ministerial Decree that introduces limitations on copies of copies...

and this part de facto extending the protection erga omnes (eg. also against people scanning a more than 20 years old picture of a public domain painting) is the theoretically most troubling one...