When we see another Eiffel Tower, idyllic English village, or, most recently, a Zaha Hadid shopping mall, copied in China, our first reaction is to scoff. Heartily. To suggest that it is – once again – evidence of China’s knock-off culture, its disregard for uniqueness, its staggering lack of innovation. Even I, reporting on the Chinese copy of the Austrian town of Halstatt, fell into the rhetorical trap: “The Chinese are well-known for their penchant for knock-offs, be it brand-name handbags or high-tech gadgets, but this time, they’ve taken it to a whole other level.” Moreover, as Guy Horton has noted, we are keen to describe designers in the West as “emulating,” “imitating,” and “borrowing”; those in the East are almost always “pirating.” However, when we allow ourselves, even unconsciously, to settle into the role of superior scoffer, we do not just do the Chinese, but ourselves, a disservice: first, we fail to recognize the fascinating complexity that lies behind China’s built experimentation with Western ideals; and, what’s more, we fail to look in the mirror at ourselves, and trouble our own unquestioned values and supposed superiority. In the next few paragraphs, I’d like to do both.
With all the recent controversy over Zaha Hadid’s “copycats” in China, we decided it would be wise to get a better understanding of the often murky world of architectural copyright. In that effort, we’ve decided to re-print an article by Attorney Jeffrey M. Reichard, who practices construction and intellectual property law with Nexsen Pruet in Greensboro, NC, and knows a thing or two (or ten!) about the subject. The article was originally published as a Construction Law Alert for clients of his firm.
Some people say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. However, under architectural copyright law, imitation could be a very costly endeavor. Here are ten tips to help contractors, owners and architects protect themselves from architectural copyright disputes.
See the 10 Things You Need to Know About Architectural Copyright, after the break…