EGYPT: Copyright the Pyramids?

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The Pyramids are the majesty of an ancient civilization. Transcending time and nationality, they seem to belong to the world. But should they be copyrighted? The Egyptian government, wanting both to protect the country’s cultural heritage and to profit from manufactured souvenirs of Sphinxes etc., is considering expanding its intellectual-property laws to cover replicas of antiquities and monuments.

Is it practical, enforceable beyond Egypt’s borders? Probably not. The towering pyramid Luxor Hotel stands gaudily on the Las Vegas Strip, and Queen Nefertiti and the Sphinx have been carved into soap, marble and candle wax.


Depending on one’s vantage point, the push for new laws is folly in an interconnected world where images flit with the speed of light. But some might see it as a noble effort to reclaim history by not allowing commercialization and the ubiquity of reproduced artifacts to cheapen the marvel and mystery of the ancient wonders.

“Heritage is definitely part and parcel of the intellectual property rights,” Halim Nour El Din, an archaeologist and former head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, recently told the Daily News Egypt. “Many seminars have been organized at Cairo University and elsewhere on the necessity of documenting Arab heritage so it would be preserved against plunder and loss.”

— Jeffrey Fleishman in Cairo