A Taiwanese museum housing some of the world’s most valuable Chinese artworks has confirmed that up to 100,000 high-resolution images of paintings and calligraphy have been leaked online – some of which have been listed for sale on a Chinese shopping platform for less than $1.
The National Palace Museum in Taipei said Tuesday it had contacted Taobao, a shopping website popular in mainland China, to stop the images from being distributed.
“We are investigating the matter and have hired lawyers to notify Taobao of the intellectual property and related damages,” said deputy museum director Huang Yung-tai.
High-resolution scans are a common way for artists, galleries, and museums to monetize artworks they own by issuing digital copies without having to sell the original, while catering to a broader, less affluent consumer market.
According to the museum’s website, each scanned image can cost anywhere from $98 to $850, depending on the resolution.
An investigation by CNN found that numerous sellers on Taobao advertise “high-resolution digital images” of the museum, with prices ranging from as little as 20 cents to $1.50.
CNN has reached out to Alibaba, the Chinese conglomerate that owns Taobao, for comment.
In its statement, the National Palace Museum said it first identified the leak in June last year and launched an investigation into the matter two months later.
The outcome of this investigation revealed that an employee tasked with reducing the file size of scans had transferred some of the artworks from the museum’s server to speed up the process.
But the private server was hacked, the museum said.
“This allowed people not associated with the museum to partially retrieve the images before combining them to get the full version,” the museum said, adding that the employee received a warning.
It is the second scandal the museum has faced in five months.
In November, the director was ordered to resign after it was revealed he broke three valuable artifacts from the Ming and Qing dynasties, worth a total of $81 million.
The National Palace Museum collection is a major bone of contention between Taiwan and China.
Many of his best-known plays were brought to Taiwan from mainland China by the Kuomintang nationalists when they lost a civil war against Mao Zedong’s communists in 1949.
Much of its vast collection of artifacts was once housed in the Palace Museum in Beijing’s Forbidden City – treasures that have already survived two wars.
China’s Communist Party, which claims democratic Taiwan even though it never ruled it, longs for the return of artifacts housed in the museum, as well as many priceless antiquities looted by colonial powers over the decades.
As tensions between Taipei and Beijing ran high, Wu Mi-cha, the museum’s director at the time, told CNN last year that he trained his staff on how to evacuate the island’s most prized relics in the event of war.
Source : www.cnn.com