Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Art and law – in a way...

From the US law blog Above the Law comes an amusing, but, at the same time, sad story about a novel artwork created by a law student.

The unfortunate student managed to accumulate enough rejection letters from law firms to reconstruct the University Virginia School of Law building.

Creative – yes. But legal? Under English law, works of architecture/buildings are protected by copyright law as artistic works. However, the copyright in buildings on public display is not infringed by making a graphic work representing it. Does anyone know whether there is a similar exemption in US law or could the poor student be liable for copyright infringement, as well as unemployed?


Thorsten Lauterbach said...

... I could be wrong (always likely!), but I seem to remember that architectural works (i.e. buildings) have only been capable to attract copyright protection under US copyright law since 1990: then, the Architectural Works Copyright Protection Act came into being and I do not think it applies to architectural works completed before the statute was enacted. The University of Virginia School of Law building depicted seems to have been built well before 1990. As such, I think the student is safe from being accused of infringing any copyright in the building. What's more, his work probably attracts copyright protection as an original piece of art in its own right.

Anonymous said...

Agree with the above. For your further edification, under U.S. law there is an exemption for pictorial reproductions of architectural works, but interestingly not three-dimensional representations. I guess if it was big it might be a replication of the building.

§ 120. Scope of exclusive rights in architectural works

(a) Pictorial Representations Permitted. — The copyright in an architectural work that has been constructed does not include the right to prevent the making, distributing, or public display of pictures, paintings, photographs, or other pictorial representations of the work, if the building in which the work is embodied is located in or ordinarily visible from a public place.