Cairo - In a potential blow to themed resorts from Vegas to Tokyo, Egypt is to pass a law requiring payment of royalties whenever its ancient monuments, from the pyramids to the sphinx, are reproduced.
Zahi Hawass, the charismatic and controversial head of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, told AFP on Tuesday that the move was necessary to pay for the upkeep of the country's thousands of pharaonic sites.
"The new law will completely prohibit the duplication of historic Egyptian monuments which the Supreme Council of Antiquities considers 100-percent copies," he said.
"If the law is passed then it will be applied in all countries of the world so that we can protect our interests," Hawass said.
He said that a ministerial committee had already agreed on the law which should be passed in the next parliamentary session, while insisting the move would not hurt Egyptian artisans.
"It is Egypt's right to be the only copyright owner for these monuments in order to benefit financially so we can restore, preserve and protect Egyptian monuments."
However, the law "does not forbid local or international artists from profiting from drawings and other reproductions of pharaonic and Egyptian monuments from all eras - as long as they don't make exact copies."
"Artists have the right to be inspired by everything that surrounds them, including monuments," he said.
Asked about the potential impact on the monumental Luxor Hotel in the US gambling capital of Las Vegas, Hawass insisted that particular resort was "not an exact copy of pharaonic monuments despite the fact it's in the shape of a pyramid."
On its website, the luxury hotel describes itself as "the only pyramid shaped building in the world," but Hawass said its interior was entirely different from an ancient Egyptian setting.
Hawass's declarations came after the opposition daily Al-Wafd published an article on Sunday called for the Las Vegas hotel to pay a slice of its lodging and gambling profits to the city of Luxor.
"Thirty-five million tourists visit Las Vegas to see the reproduction of Luxor city while only six million visit the real Egyptian city of Luxor," the paper lamented.
Samir Farag, head of Luxor town council in southern Egypt, home to the legendary Valley of the Kings, said that it would be difficult to prohibit use of pyramid shapes.
"We can't forbid people from using the name of Luxor and copying monuments from (Luxor) city, which is the world's richest city for monuments," he said, adding that "tourists going to Las Vegas doesn't affect our city's business".