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There’s Something Fishy About the Other Nefertiti (thegreatfredini.com)
272 points by franzb on March 7, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 91 comments

One possibility is that there were no 'hacker' types. The scan might have just been given to them by someone sympathetic to their cause, and the easiest way to avoid investigation while still getting press is to carry in an unplugged Kinect and claim to have made the scan yourself.

I'm surprised to see little thought along this line. I'd be more surprised if there weren't a number of sympathetic folks with access.

I think this is really the Occam's razor answer.

Why would a museum not want to have art scanned? Especially antiquities. Whats the logic behind it?

The museum already has a high-resolution scan. They sell 3d reproductions.

FTA, they state this as "the prevailing theory", and that the scan file was stolen directly from the museum's servers or from the manufacturer of the gift-shop reproductions' servers.

The article's claim isn't quite the same. It claims it's possible that "real hackers" broke into the museums servers and stole the data. It's a lot simpler to believe that an employee of the museum with access to the data simply stole the data they had access to in the course of their employment.

My first, immediate thought was that it was an inside job.

I got side tracked over the discussion of Germany "not being amused" by this.

Wait, so this bust was made by Egyptians over 3000 years ago and the Germans are not happy someone made a scan of it!? It's almost disgusting that anyone can lay claim to this work of art! It should "belong" to ALL of us at this point.

Wouldn't it be fantastic to be sued for selling a Nefertiti bust replica for, say, copyright or trademark infringement?

rm -rf /publicdomain

To be fair, Germans have never been very "amused" by anything.

Ha! Now you want to close all the museums of the world? Louvre, Vatican, British Museum all of them is filled of stolen pieces. What kind of subversive are you?

OT, but do the vatican museums have "stolen art"? It's been decades since I went, but I seem to recall mostly stuff made explicitly for (various incarnations of) The Church.

There is stolen stuff appropriated and variously recycled in many cathedrals/chapels/basilicas, I just don't remember it in the vatican.

No. That wouldn't have to happen.

Germany is incredibly aggressive when it comes to intellectual "property".

How would this be protectable IP though? It's thousands of years old--doesn't Germany have a concept of the public domain?

It wasn't even known about until about 100 years ago. It's not like it's a great treasure admired throughout the ages; more of a pop-culture curiosity from the past century that was created millennia before.

Nope, both of those are different from the scanned data. I can upload some demonstration images if people are interested.

Edit: render from artist's data, with crevice circled: https://www.dropbox.com/s/klu2yhupawg7bqf/right%20ear%20clos...

compare with right ear from first image from https://www.ancientsculpturegallery.com/egyptian-queen-nefer...

Regarding the first link, the smaller stone statue is completely different, note that the left ear is complete as opposed to the real thing.

Isn't it more likely that they scanned one of these (in the comfort of their own home/studio)? http://forum.david-3d.com/viewtopic.php?p=32781 (edit:ignore the scanning method outlined here, low resolution, focus on the source statue)

In another article, a scanning professional mentioned a laser scan of that same bust was created in 2000/2001 http://3dprintingindustry.com/2016/02/26/3d-scanned-nefertit...

PS The statue in link 1 does show the ear crevice.

Crop from link [1] to save you the click: http://i.imgur.com/oUiAl24.png

That does seem quite plausible, more plausible than a hack/leak of the museum's data itself IMO.

They mention that as a possibility in the article.

The long and short of it is this: if they got a scan of that detail from a Kinect, of an object under glass then they better release a SIGGRAPH white-paper because what they accomplished was better than the state of the art.

Of course there's a much more likely explanation.

I spent years working on algorithms for processing 3D scanner data, and the claim that you could get a scan of that resolution and quality - surreptitiously, through a glass enclosure, and with a Kinect - is absurd.

Most likely it's a scan of a replica created under carefully controlled conditions, or they were able to acquire a scan created by the museum.

Re: everyone saying the Kinect can't scan that well—remember this paper (http://news.mit.edu/2015/algorithms-boost-3-d-imaging-resolu...) posted on HN a few months back? That research was done by hacking a Kinect.

From the news article:

> The researchers’ experimental setup consisted of a Microsoft Kinect — which gauges depth using reflection time — with an ordinary polarizing photographic lens placed in front of its camera. In each experiment, the researchers took three photos of an object, rotating the polarizing filter each time, and their algorithms compared the light intensities of the resulting images.

> On its own, at a distance of several meters, the Kinect can resolve physical features as small as a centimeter or so across. But with the addition of the polarization information, the researchers’ system could resolve features in the range of tens of micrometers, or one-thousandth the size.

Not a hard hack to accomplish! It's just a piece of plastic, and then a compressed sensing algorithm (which you can run at your leisure on your scan data after leaving the building) to merge the UV maps. And it doesn't even require a thousand scans or anything—just three!

ETA: and the 2015 paper isn't even novel. Here's a 2014 paper (PDF: http://ro.uow.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=5372&contex...) on using multipolarized compressive sensing to enhance the resolution on through-wall radar. (I assume to target drone strikes or something.) This technique has been in the wild for a while. I assume archivists—those who would most benefit—are well-aware of it.

No, it would require three scans -- per viewpoint. But it would require a lot more viewpoints to cover the whole surface area of the object.

Also if you look closely at the video footage the capturers use an Xbox 360 Kinect, not an Xbox One Kinect (which is used in the paper you cite) which have entirely different working principles.

One other thing that's very fishy: The Xbox 360 Kinect has an infrared projector that's very visible when running. What the activists show in their video is definitely a Kinect that's not running.

Finally, keep in mind the paper you quoted is basically lab results. To get it to a level of reliability so it would work as you described a lot more research will have to be done.

> stolen scan

Erm, even if it's scanned, it's a scan of an object that is pretty much in public domain. Not sure the use of the word "stolen" is appropriate here (as usual) - it's more like they got access to it.

That question is part of the interesting discussion. If you scan a statue and then print that scan, you've clearly made a copy of something. So the scan is, by some definitions, also "the thing". But you created the scan and had to clean it up and fix weird bugs where a pixel was out of place etc, so the scan is also its own thing.

So one argument goes that making the scan is a creative process and it gets its own copyright, and using that scan to produce a copy of a piece of art goes to a different copyright. But is that printed copy a derivative work? or a copy? Was the scan "new art"? or was it "technical recreation?"

There are a lot of interesting angles. I heard a discussion on NPR about paintings that had been severely damaged due to natural disasters and museums hired artists who were familiar with the style, and with materials similar to the original artists, work to restore the painting from pictures of its previous state. Of course the restoration artists can't exactly reproduce the painting and they bring their own talent and creativity to the process. So are they now part owner of the copyright? Is it a partnership work? One artist dead, the other alive? Clearly if it was a work for hire with copyright assignment that is moot for the artist but does the museum now have some claim of copyright?

Some of the more interesting rabbit holes you can get lost in when you take a very technical approach to copyright.

Suppose you scanned the Ship of Thesus at the port where it docked, and then printed each board out. Would the recombination of the boards make the Ship again, or wouldn't it?

I always find it fascinating amazing what 2000-year old questions still have bearing on technology recently created.

"Intellectual property" is not a water-tight abstraction. It definitely leaks around the edges. The next decade or so is all about the edges.

  >But is that printed copy a derivative work? 
It's clearly a derivative work. If printing a copy is transformative (and my opinion is no, it's not), then it is also gets its own copyright. So the owner of the original work doesn't get the copyright of the new work, but can still sue for infringement.

There was a case on this topic recently.

It's not a derivative work unless additional creative effort is added. Altering the scan to increase the faithfulness of the reproduction is not creative effort--no more than if you edited an OCR scan of a printed work to correct the typos. Nor are mistakes in the reproduction introduced by an automated process creative efforts.

If you intentionally altered the bust to convert the crown into a bundle of hot dogs, that would be a derivative work. No one would care much about it, though, as the original is what's famous, and they would prefer a faithful reproduction of that to anything you might do to your copy to make it uniquely yours.

Similarly, a photograph of a painting that has been digitally retouched to fix the colors is not a derivative work.

You have to intentionally do something to make your copy uniquely distinguishable from the original. It can be anything. Put a hairy mole on David's buttock. Change the Creation of Adam such that the creator is the FSM. Sneak the TARDIS into Starry Night. Replace all the human heads with Kooikerhondje heads in The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp.

The Utah Teapot digital model is a derivative work of the original physical teapot, because it was scaled vertically by 3/4. That's enough. Were it not for that one difference, you wouldn't be able to tell whether someone copied the digital model directly, or remeasured the parameters of the physical model.

(Note that my opinions on this matter are not necessarily going to match those of judges actually able to decide intellectual property disputes.)

It's not a derivative work unless additional creative effort is added.

That is what I meant by transformative: http://fairuse.stanford.edu/overview/fair-use/four-factors/#...

Several courts have already ruled that "slavish copies" are not transformative, and not subject to copyright protection. So your opinion on the prints is probably correct.

Copyright would apply to the scan, same as any photo you make of something is copyrighted to you.

In many jurisdictions, faithful reproductions are not copyrightable: https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commons:Reuse_of_PD-Art...

In Germany they are, as the country-specific notes on that linked page tell you.

True, but it is if you have to actually create it yourself and if it costs considerable effort and is done with a new technique. As some people have already stated: The detail is much too high to be created as a self-created, new method, production (e.g. scanned with a kinect2 by walking around).

And I also wonder what the effect of tempered glass is on the scan (as most glass will block near uv and ir, since they might want to keep the original in good condition.

-- update to clarify

Workfactor isn't a criterion of copyright (under US law). Authorship is.

Composing, framing, and timing a shutter release is considered "authorship" so far as photography is concerned. Not sure a scan meant to be fully faithful to an original would be.

I love that people even have the idea that these items of antiquity which can belong to someone and they can make a copyright.

The obvious answer (to me) is that they are public domain and are humanities public record. Now the item may be owned but cannot copyright the image. This should be the answer.

This item is from the cultural heritage of Egypt. It belongs to the country. German has stolen it.

But should Egypt own the copyright image is my question? My answer is no.

The dude that made it? The copyright expired a while ago then...

Well then they say that the person making the image with a camera or a scanner has copyright to their "Art Work." If the picture or scan is 100% a representative of the object it shouldn't have a artistic license to keep that away.

Not necessarily. Reproductions of public domain works that have no 'creative input', such as photographs of 2d-works like paintings are usually not eligible for copyright protection. You could argue the same is true for a perfect 3d-scan of a PD work: there is no creative process.

> Copyright would apply to the scan

Not if it's a slavish reproduction.

Luckily the copyright on a ancient work of art would have expired long ago.

How does copyright apply to a 3300 year old statue?

Indeed, but people should be able to freely make 3d scans and the museum should have no right to prevent that.

The scanning process may interfere with the ability of other members of the public to enjoy the work in the usual way.

The scanning process may damage the object in some small way, which could accumulate over the course of multiple scans.

The queue for making volume scans may be packed with amateurs, who will make low-quality scans, with limited distribution. These might prevent the timely creation of a high-quality scan.

So it is really in the interest of the public to allow the most competent scanner to jump the queue, make the best possible scan with available technology, and distribute that to everyone who wanted a scan in lieu of allowing them to make their own.

If a work of art is removed from exhibit once every decade or so for a new scan that is better than the last scan, and that is distributed libre to any visitor that wants a copy, there is no argument to be made for anyone to make another scan, unless it can add information that is not already in the existing files. For instance, if the usual scan relies on reflected visible light, a magnetic scan or transmitted light could reveal other information, such as perhaps a previous image that was painted over.

obviously within regulations. But the museum should have no right to deny access after setting up specific appoinments with approved scanners.

Do you also feel this way about photos?

Which do you mean? Photos of a museum piece or photos as the exhibited work?

For the latter, if the photos were taken on film, reproduction prints could be made in the same fashion as the exhibited print, and any scanning should take place using the negatives. On-plate photography is more appropriately digitized using a scanning machine, rather than with a handheld photographic camera.

As for taking pictures of a museum piece, as long as you are no more disruptive than someone using their eyeballs, I have no problem with taking photographs, even if the displayed work is still under copyright. A blanket ban on photography puts an unfair burden on the photographer to prove fair use a priori. If there is a problem with copyright, the work in question can always be blurred or blacked out with digital editing, leaving the remainder of the photo intact.

But I don't believe any public museum can ethically prevent visitors from using recording devices of any kind unless they provide libre digital copies of the protected work that are objectively better than anything that could be produced by an amateur in situ.

So by all means, charge 8000 euro for a volume-printed reproduction of the bust. But if you want to prevent people from "scanning" the original, you had best make the high-resolution scan the museum already possesses available for download first.

Plus, if one wants to talk about stolen things, Borchardt's negotiation to acquire the bust is... Interesting.

On the subject of ancient art, CBC radio did a interesting series on who should get to say where and how ancient art gets kept and displayed. It's a two-part series and covers a lot of ground ...

http://www.cbc.ca/radio/ideas/who-owns-ancient-art-part-1-1.... http://www.cbc.ca/radio/ideas/who-owns-ancient-art-part-2-1....

I agree, it does seem suspicious. The other thing I noticed is that the top of the hat/headdress is scanned accurately, which would be difficult unless you held the scanner in an obvious manner above the statue.

the article addresses this directly as well

> In order to get coverage of the top of the headdress, the scanner would have to be held high above the statue, and not at waist level as the video indicates.

Interesting stuff. As a once kinect enthusiast I was completely blown away by the quality of this thing. Normally, the kinect is a pita to deal with, is very touchy, and gives a faily low quality/res return. I just assumed they were using some fancy image stabilization and some fuzzy logic/hand cleanup to make it not look terrible. Or that the Xbox One kinect was just much higher resolution than the original, but a quick google search tells me the difference is negligible. Hell, if the kinect could do resolutions at this level natively, everyone would buy one as it would exceed 3D laser scanners costing thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars.

The hacker theory is interesting, but I wonder if someone with access to this statue during off-hours performed this with a proper laser scanner and the kinect story is cover to make sure he doesn't get caught. Sounds like someone might be in trouble now. Of all the countries to have an intellectual freedom debate/trial, it seems that politically unstable Egypt would be one of the worst for any positive outcome here.

Its all a shame. We should have good 3D scans of every museum item of note by now and available for free for the public. How can we sell this concept to the boards, trustees, curators, and bureaucrats who control these items? Wasn't there a big controversy when high-quality color film came out way back when about publishing photos of art pieces and museum pieces? Seems like we're destined to re-invent this conflict over and over as technology advances.

edit: This bust is permanently housed in Germany, I just assumed it was on temporary loan. Thanks for the correction below.

> Of all the countries to have an intellectual freedom debate/trial, it seems that politically unstable Egypt would be one of the worst for any positive outcome here.

Well, in this case, the original bust is in Germany, and it's Egypt that wants the copy (really, wants the original back, but). So in a case like this, (a) I don't think any trial would be in Egypt, but rather in Germany, and (b) if the trial were in Egypt, I don't think the court would rule against the scanners, who are merely trying to repatriate the object as best they can.

>We should have good 3D scans of every museum item of note by now and available for free for the public. How can we sell this concept to the boards, trustees, curators, and bureaucrats who control these items?

Why not convince legislators instead?

Because coercion is strictly inferior to compromise

Which is why laws that coerce to not do this (and thus require use to 'sell' the idea to certain groups) need to be removed. If a Museum holds some artifact from long ago, their only claim to it should be that it was entrusted to them by the will of the people for safe keeping, so their only input to scanning should be based around protection of the original. Any sort of ownership of the artifact should only be upheld if they can show they have truthful ownership following back from creation of the artifact. Just because you bought it from some guy who stole it 100 years ago does not give you any moral claim to it, and any legal backing of such a claim is coercion against the many to serve the interests of the few.

Just because you bought it from some guy who stole it 100 years ago does not give you any moral claim to it

That would mean no one owns the house they live in.

How long ago does land have to be stolen for it to be recognized as belonging to the new owner? If you show that I have your family heirloom (but in no way show I was the one who took it, that question is still open), how long must I have held onto it for it to be mine?

>We should have good 3D scans of every museum item of note by now and available for free for the public. How can we sell this concept to the boards, trustees, curators, and bureaucrats who control these items?

Because one of the greatest source of funds to museums and libraries are their licensing of images and objects in their possession.

Many of which are considered creative works in the public domain.

We ought to be very cautious when using public laws to enable otherwise non-viable business models to exist.

There is a large variation in museum attitudes toward amateur reproduction, largely because there is no international consensus on the correct balance between a museum's duty to remain financially solvent as curator of valuable antiquities and its duty to maintain the broadest possible access to the public for works in the public domain.

It is likely that a public law having nothing to do with copyright could encourage quality professional digitization of works in the public domain, by extending limited monopoly privilege on the digital copy until the cost of creating it can be reasonably recouped. If a museum cannot recover the costs of making quality scans, it won't make them. But copyright is the wrong way to go about recovering costs.

The second version of the Kinect uses time-of-flight sensing rather than the projected grid of points, and is considerably more accurate.

Whether or not this makes the scanning more plausible, I am not sure. However, some of the 3D models generated with the Kinect 2 [1] do seem to contain a decent amount of detail.

[1] http://zugara.com/wp-content/uploads/Kinect-1-vs-Kinect-2-Vi...

I have a Kinect 2 and the scans still don't come close to sub-millimeter accuracy.

There are some rumours that they scanned plaster cast instead: http://heise.de/-3117841

Still a big issue with the artifact being behind glass. In a controlled environment where you can take all the time you need, I still don't think you could get a scan that's as good as the one released.

Except the device they showed was clearly a Kinect 1.

This wouldn't be the first time artists taking credit to do one thing while actually doing something else. After all the truth is probably way too boring for it to be considered art.

This is a reality of conceptual art. The _art_, in this context, resides in the implicit criticism the artists are making about the ownership of antiquities. The actual objects/files/documentation involved is more akin to the artist's materials. Something that is still poorly understood in the broader world is that a huge proportion of contemporary art isn't about making things, but about exploring and expressing ideas.

It's a great stunt if someone at the museum "leaked" this. If there is a person like that working there, his/her people skills are beyond believable/demagogic...

Makes me think of the book https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Look_Who%27s_Back

Agree with the poster. We did some scanning experiments to do busts of ourselves with a 3d printer as a first test with various tools. It's pretty hard to scan a human and still get a lot of detail. Not sure how much time they had and if scanning a bust is easier (it's under glass though) but the quality seems too good at first glance.

Being under glass makes it a non-starter in my book. You could do it using polarizers potentially, but they didn't.

> What do you think? Will we ever know?

Of course we will know. If the data is from a scan the museum made, there exists a way to compare the two data sets and give a certainty one came from the other.

That is the nature of entanglement, after all.

You mean of course we /could/ know. There's no certainty that even if the museum's scan was stolen, that they would publicly admit it.

If it's stolen and the museum decides to be public about it (again, if it's stolen), we would know. Math allows us to know this.

I too go for access to the museum's 3D scan data somehow. That being said, here are some thoughts on the Kinect 1 being used to produce a scan given the display glass, the power requirements, and resolution of the Kinect1. The Kinect1's power requirement goes way down once you cut the motor's power out. Second, perhaps the Kinect was used with the intention of helping the photogrammetry out, by giving precise distances to the glass for each shot taken by the Kinect1, and then secondary photos from cell phones could be correlated back at home. I doubt the use of a polarizing filter, since it would not lend much to this method. In addition, you can double the resolution of the Kinect1 by not streaming at a high rate. I believe from 640x480 VGA to 1280x1024 at a lower frame rate. If the display glass were not there, they could get at best 1.3mm per pixel at those distances. But it was there, so I vote for a file provided to them. I am just presenting the technical possibility of augmenting the Kinect1 with some hacks and cell phone photos to get close. I do think in any case mesh cleanup would allow the 1.3mm per pixel to be sub-surfaced to 0.01mm vs. 1.3mm stated above without any major infidelity to the original sans micro-scratches and pores on the original surface. I worked for 2 years using ultrasound, photos and video to digitize objects before the Kinect1 appeared, so I know what can be done to achieve reproducibility of a scanned object. NASA had researched 'shape from shading' algorithms in the 70s and 80s to try and get more data from their mono B&W satellite imagery. I had implemented these in my own products, and no, they are not simple height maps based on a greyscale image. They take into account the light source's position to extrapolate relief data on monotonous toned objects like asteroids and unpainted sculptures.

Power and laptop requirements are the easiest to solve here, she has a big trenchcoat. You can easily hide enough battery power to power kinect. And at the end of the day kinect just outputs signal so why can't you have something small like RPi or phone to take in the data and send it to a more powerful computer for processing.

>why can't you have something small like RPi or phone to take in the data

Primarily because a Kinect isn't capable of producing the data in question

And an RPi (at least the first revision) USB isn't near fast enough for a Kinect. Other SBCs could work though, like a Beagle* or the guts of a SheevaPlug.

Maybe they did both - start with a low res kinect model to seed the convergence of the photographic analysis algorithm.

Still, does it seem likely that the artists would have been able to capture good enough data covertly at the museum?

They admitted that they "knew nothing about the device and that some hacker types had set up the hardware for them". Getting such a good scan with a Kinect + photogrammetry setup would definitely require a more experienced operator.

Problem is, it's under glass. Unless you use a polarizer you'll get a lot of false positives for points of correspondence. Photogrammetry would require a whole lot of very properly lit images as well. From a technical standpoint their story doesn't line up at all with my experiences with either photogrammetry or capturing 3d data with the Kinect.

As Best I think they had somebody do a hand-sculpted 3d sculpt using z-brush, maybe nominally based on the photos and lot rez scan data.

Most likely hypothesis to me is that they scanned the object, produced a low quality scan, then somebody rebuilt the scan using surface primitives from the low quality scan. The result is not accurate, but is very precise.

Of course the Kinect does not offer such precision. But what about other pro hand held scanner?

HandySCAN, Polhemus, Artec, all 3D scanner brands with a very good resolution.

But then again it seems very unlikely that they took the time to scan an object without being noticed.

Wow! The museum sells the printed statue of Nefertiti (a replica) for 9.000,00 Euros! What a bargain for something stolen from Egypt.

They mention relatively high quality gift shop reproductions. It seems to me like scanning those is another possible explanation.

there is a lot of press around this work but seems derivative of material speculation ISIS: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NL6e-kEkur0

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