If I want to create some 3D models of ancient Greek buildings such as the Parthenon and some ancient Italian buildings such as the Pantheon for a mobile app, do I need to get the permission or purchase a license from anyone?

Or are these ancient Greek and Italian buildings in the public domain?

Here is the wiki link to the Parthenon in Greece: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parthenon

Here is the wiki link to the Pantheon in Rome: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pantheon%2C_Rome

  • 6
    I don't have an answer for your question, but I believe that you should look up material about freedom of panorama rather than just "copyright" for a more accurate framing of your issue. For instance, wikipedia summarizes Italian law with the following: "To publish pictures of 'cultural goods' for commercial purposes, it is mandatory to obtain an authorization from the local branch of the Ministry of Arts and Cultural Heritage, the Soprintendenza.". I'm not sure about practical implications or the accuracy of this summary.
    – Nicola Sap
    Mar 25 at 7:47
  • 5
    Of course, both of these buildings are significantly older than copyright... Mar 25 at 9:13
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    Of course Not. Obviously. No more than you can film landmarks without paying the fees demanded by that jurisdiction. No more than you can film me without paying me for name/image/likeness. Note that this is a commonplace in film animation / modelmaking.
    – Fattie
    Mar 27 at 17:10
  • Can folks stop mentioning "copyright" as filming rightsm, and NIL, are totally unrelated to copyright.
    – Fattie
    Mar 27 at 17:10
  • @NicolaSap, I know the decree applies to physical cultural heritages such as buildings, statues, drawing.... I wonder if you are aware of any similar decree for ancient music that is more than 150 years old and that, currently, no one owns the copyright ? Mar 28 at 8:17

3 Answers 3


Even though the copyright has expired, cultural heritage is still protected.

The Italian Cultural Heritage Code (Legislative Decree n. 42/2014) states that derivative works of "cultural heritage" material can only be used for commercial purposes with authorization by the cultural institution that holds the original material and payment of a fee (articles 107 and 108).

The Library of Congress has more about the decree.

The rationale is that this fee helps support open access to Italy's cultural heritage.

German toy manufacturer Ravensburger was successfully sued because they made a 1,000 piece puzzle of the Vitruvian Man drawing by Leonardo da Vinci. [ref 1] [ref 2]

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    – Dale M
    Mar 27 at 21:16

Both Italy and Greece are EU members.

In EU countries, copyright protects your intellectual property until 70 years after your death or 70 years after the death of the last surviving author in the case of a work of joint authorship. Source.

The ancient buildings you mention are therefore out of copyright, and you are free to model or reproduce them in any way you wish.

However if you derive data for these models from a modern source, such as photographs on the Web, you might have to consider the copyright on those sources. That's a more complicated question. The EU Copyright Directive includes some carve-outs analogous to fair use, which your usage might fit under. For instance, if you amalgamate lots of on-line photos of these monuments in order to derive texture maps for your models then you could probably claim the data mining exception. You might also argue that the creative input of the photographers in choosing a point of view and framing the picture are lost, and the only data you are using is the uncreative content derived from the monument itself. But these may turn out to be novel legal arguments which would require a court in each country to settle for certain.

  • 2
    If parts of the buildings are within museums today, you would need their permission to take photographs inside, too.
    – o.m.
    Mar 24 at 19:21
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    @o.m. is this related to copyright? Imho not really.
    – fraxinus
    Mar 24 at 20:25
  • 3
    Not applicable in this case, but note that copyrights on modern photos of two-dimensional works of art are a different story, though exactly what that story looks like will vary by jurisdiction.
    – Kevin
    Mar 24 at 23:14
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    @fraxinus, it is significant for the goal of the OP, who after all asked if 2,000-year old works are still covered.
    – o.m.
    Mar 25 at 5:22
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    At least in Italy, there are additional provisions related to country-owned "cultural heritage", which (as far as I understand) go beyond the attribution of copyright to the author, on which your answer focuses, and prohibit or limit commercial usage in a more general way. Look up the decree law d.lgs. 42/2004 and subsequent amendments and additions.
    – Nicola Sap
    Mar 25 at 7:59

No issue with copyright law but, unless you go and survey the structures yourself, any source material used (photos, videos, drawings, etc) may require license if it used in your completed project -- not in research or creating your own design. Say you do use someone else's photo in the finished product, it also depends on the nature of use to determine whether or not a license is required. i.e. Educational purposes vs profit

  • While true, setting that aside (almost) all cities, of course obviously, make you pay to use the city. This is a basic of every movie one has ever seen in one's life. (A few cities deliberately have completely free filming of public structures - as a way to promote them to the film industry.) You can't just willy-nilly film things, or actors, without paying the thing/person. (Modelmaking == filmmaking, no difference.)
    – Fattie
    Mar 27 at 17:20

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