GRP Rainer LLP

Evaluation of Buildings as "Works of Architectural Art" - Copyright-Law

Copyright protection does not come automatically with an appealing architectural design that meets the eye.


Cologne, NRW -- (SBWIRE) -- 09/12/2013 -- GRP Rainer Lawyers and Tax Advisors in Cologne, Berlin, Bonn, Bremen, Dusseldorf, Essen, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Hanover, Munich, Nuremberg, Stuttgart and London – conclude: Often, clients and architects have a justifiable interest in copyright protection for their buildings. However, such protection is possible only under certain conditions. The building in question must be a “work of architectural art”. Under some circumstances, it can be difficult to differentiate between a “normal” building and a “work of architectural art”, and it is not always easy. It has to be reviewed separately and individually for every building whether it might be a “work of architectural art”.

This differentiation does not depend only on the optical appearance of a building or its architectural details. The decisive factor is how it differs from other typical buildings. Thus, the requirements for a “work of architectural art” are usually met when a building is clearly distinct from others and shows a certain measure of individuality. However, this attribute is only seldom awarded.

Copyright protection can be granted to residential or office buildings as well as to their individual elements, such as a stairway (see Federal Supreme Court (BHG), File No. I ZR 104/96) or even a washroom facility (District Court (LG) of Leipzig, File No. 05 (o) 4475/01) that attracted attention through its imaginative design elements.

Owners of buildings that are protected by copyright must observe certain things. Mainly, they must know that they cannot decide freely about the building in question. In particular, they cannot redesign the building without the architect’s prior approval, since otherwise they might be liable to pay damages. Yet in many cases, communication and cooperation between the building’s architect and the owner becomes difficult after the building is completed because the architect and copyright holder does not want to accept any tampering with the original and protected design. It should also be noted that the heirs of the architect can lay claim to the copyright after the architect’s death.

It is advisable to consult a lawyer even when a construction project is in the planning stage. Such a lawyer can clarify legal questions and incorporate them in a contract.

GRP Rainer LLP is an international firm of lawyers and tax advisors who are specialists in commercial law. The firm counsels commercial and industrial companies and corporations, as well as associations, small- and mid-sized businesses, self-employed freelancers and private individuals worldwide from offices Cologne, Berlin, Bonn, Dusseldorf, Essen, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Hannover, Munich, Stuttgart, Bremen, Nuremberg and London UK.
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