As an emerging and largely unfamiliar form of cultural heritage, digital cultural property remains something of an enigma. Under the law of armed conflict, States are bound to protect cultural property from harm, yet the rules applicable to traditional cultural property do not transfer neatly to digital works. It is unclear, for example, how the twin obligations to safeguard and respect cultural property, as outlined in the 1954 Hague Cultural Property Convention, should apply to digital creations – or even what digital material appropriately qualifies as cultural property. Can only new digital creations, otherwise known as “born-digital” material, be cultural property? What about high-quality copies of existing works, such as an extremely high-resolution image of the Mona Lisa? Does it matter whether a digital work has been reproduced in large quantities? Given the ubiquity of digital media and the growing popularity of digital art and other works, protecting digital cultural property in the event of armed conflict will require States to consider and resolve as-yet undecided questions concerning the nature of digital creations and the reasons why certain works should be preserved.
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