The Italy government is planning to stop the sales of digital copies of artistic masterpieces by the likes of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. This comes after a digital version of Michelangelo’s Doni Tondo was sold for €240,000, making the Galleria Degli Uffizi in Florence a sum of €70,000.
Cinello, a company based in Milan, undertook the sale and digital reproduction of the work in a five-year deal. But the fact that €100,000 was spent on production costs raised a few eyebrows and further concerns were spread around whether such significant works are “up for sale” at all.
In May, the Italian newspaper La Repubblica asked: “Who owns Michelangelo’s Doni Tondo? Who has the legal rights linked to the work? If the buyer ever decides to exhibit it, can he do it without the permission of the Uffizi? Basically, do we not risk losing control of our heritage in a time when we are increasingly moving towards the metaverse?”
On the for-now shutting down of the digital sales of historical masterpieces, the director-general of Italian museums said, “Given that the matter is complex and unregulated, the ministry has temporarily asked its institutions to refrain from signing contracts relating to NFTs. The basic intention is to avoid unfair contracts.”
A spokesperson for Cinello stated that the agreement was based on splitting the net sales revenue in half with the Uffizi, stressing that, “All rights to the work remain with the museum that owns the original image.” They added that buyers could resell any works bought on the Cinello platform, and museums would receive royalties on further sales.
The existing contracts remain in place, unblocked. However, any new deals on making digital images not be blocked. Whether this will be on a temporary or permanent basis remains to be seen, though the Cinello spokesperson appeared hopeful that the issue would be resolved.