Architecture in the Marketplace of Ideas: Copyright and its "Chilling" Effects
This paper won the 2009 Friends of Fondren Library Research Award for graduate research.
This paper questions the applicability of current legal standards of copyright to architectural works. Copyright law, as currently written, does not address the unique needs and design practices common to the field of architecture. For example, in architecture, the appropriation of existing design strategies in new built works is common, and should not be seen as a copyright infringement. Secondly, architectural works integrate aesthetics and utility in ways that are often difficult to separate, therein complicating the legal distinction between patents (intended for utilitarian objects) and copyrights (intended for artistic productions). Furthermore, architectural works are not usually meant to be mass-produced and are difficult to copy, thus bringing into question the need to regulate their reproduction. The desire to create connections with the surrounding context of a built work is a fourth argument against the copyrighting of architectural works. This paper problematizes architecture’s position as a copyright protected field, synthesizing information from intellectual property law, cultural theory, economics, and architecture, using the works of prolific architect Rem Koolhaas as key examples. Copyleft thought and antirivalry policies are defined and proposed as alternative solutions to copyright law in the domain of architecture.