I bought a buddha statue and I would like to scan it using photogrammetry and publish the result.

Am I allowed to do that?

Is this the same like scanning a book and publishing it? Sketchfab on the other hand is full of 3d models of commercial products.

  • $\begingroup$ I would imagine that something like a generic buddha statue would not give you many problems on a copyright front, assuming it wasn't a specialist design by a still living artist. However, depending on where you are in the world, morally you could find yourself in trouble. If you live in a Buddhist society (such as Thailand or other SE Asian country) then there are laws against this sort of thing, and cultural appropriation by Westerners is seriously frowned upon and can result in some rather unpleasant jail time. However, if you are based in the west you should be ok. $\endgroup$ – Greenonline Aug 12 '18 at 21:24
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    $\begingroup$ I think this question would receive more informed answers in Law Stack Exchange. $\endgroup$ – typo Aug 13 '18 at 19:35
  • $\begingroup$ Slight side note: there is a project that reconstructs lost historic sites from photographs. it was reported about in smithsonianmag.com/history/… - under some conditions a scan like this could be done as part of such an effort to preserve a place for the future or create a medium to teach history with (in shape of printing a historic place and bringing it to the pupil) $\endgroup$ – Trish Aug 13 '18 at 21:35

If the design was made from an artist and is not public domain, than you should not upload that scan without the (written) permission of the creator of the design. Espacially a scan of a decorative object will likely be protected, so costumers buy the original instead of printing itself or buy a printed version. If you would design a deco object and sell copies of it, you also don't want that others just scan it and print it.


First thing to do is get a lawyer skilled in copyright law as applicable where you live. It's going to depend in no small part on whether your scanned model is considered a copy or a transformative work of art.

Personally, I see scanning an object as similar to photographing it (or sketching it). Lots of art objects, or for that matter personal items such as a photo of a living person, are protected by copyright; others aren't. If I made the laws, which I sadly don't :-) , I would consider a scanned, printed object to be in the same boat as a sketch -- has to be demonstrably transformative and all that.

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    $\begingroup$ A mechanised scan is more likely to be seen as a copy than a derivative work (although I'm no specialist). $\endgroup$ – Sean Houlihane Aug 13 '18 at 17:18
  • $\begingroup$ A scan is a different medium than a real life object and thus at least a different medium and thus likely a derivate. But you can use this derivative to make a direct copy via CNC or 3D-Printer... IMHO only the scan itself is a derivate, and it can be used to create other derivates akin to a sketch while prints could constitute copying into the same medium. But I am not a lawyer. $\endgroup$ – Trish Aug 13 '18 at 21:31
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    $\begingroup$ This depends on the region were you living. E.G. publishing a photo of the Eifeltower illuminated by night will you get in trouble. And it is a 2D copy of a 3D object. So the medium is not relevant. $\endgroup$ – Horitsu Aug 14 '18 at 5:51
  • $\begingroup$ @Horitsu As I wrote, check the law where you live $\endgroup$ – Carl Witthoft Aug 14 '18 at 12:04
  • $\begingroup$ CarlWitthoft my comment was more designated for @trish and the distinction just because of types of mediums $\endgroup$ – Horitsu Aug 14 '18 at 12:28

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