Friday, May 06, 2005

architecture, creativity and copyright

I spent a good 6 months recently researching and writing about copyright in creative industries with Aram - namely, the music and fashion industries - on behalf of the norman lear center. so it was with great interest that I read this article:

L.A. Firm Wins Lawsuit over Copied Home

In an unusual case testing the Architecture Works Copyright Protection Act of 1990, a jury awarded the Los Angeles-based firm, Hablinski + Manion Architecture, (formerly known as William Hablinski Architecture) approximately $5.9 million after plans for a Bel Air home they’d designed were copied and adapted to a Beverly Hills site.

while I was working on the music/fashion project I began to wonder how copyright worked in architecture. it seemed that the blueprint was the crux of the issue - after all, you can't copyright an idea but you can copyright the expression of the idea. the blueprint was the physical manifestation of the idea and prior to this act, was the protection afforded to architects. The Act was intended to protect design professionals from plagarism if a duplicate structure was built from their drawings or specs.

but enforcing strict copyright protection in creative industries has been a bit of a boondoggle. Architecture's inherently public nature further complicates that. in creative industries, ideas are fluid and creativity is less about originality than about innovative (re)uses of what already exists. would we have frank gehry if there was no frank lloyd wright? piano, koolhaas, herzog & de meuron, ando without gropius, le courbusier and mies? does stronger IP protection serve the public good? does it actually help design professionals?

according to this article, this is one of the first cases to successfully test the act. I'm not a lawyer nor a designer so far from an expert in any of these issues. nonetheless, it will be fascinating to see how these issues play out - and what impact, if any, it has on the future of architecture.


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