Home » Copyright/Intellectual Property, Non-US » Moral rights and architectural works in a recent Italian decision

Moral rights and architectural works in a recent Italian decision

20 April 2018

From The 1709 Blog:

To what extent can an architectural project be modified without the express consent of the architect without such modifications being an infringement of their moral right of integrity?

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In late 2000s well-known architect Stefano Boeri was commissioned to realize an architectural project – then become ‘Casa Bosco’ – for ‘residential standardized units – Low Cost housing units’ in Milan by virtue of a contract that foresaw that the architect and the commissioning party would have the co-ownership of any resulting rights, and also that any separate use of the project – including for marketing purposes – by either party should be authorized in writing by the other party.

Following the finalization of the project and the decision of Boeri to leave it due to his political commitment with the Municipality of Milan, a new contract was concluded to prepare the final version of the project and obtain the necessary administrative/building permits.

Also this contract envisaged that Boeri would co-own any rights to the project as finalized, save for the right to modify the project if any such modifications would be necessary to obtain the necessary authorization.

In 2014 Boeri brought proceedings for infringement of – among other things – Article 20(1) of the Italian Copyright Act. This provision states that, irrespective of economic rights and even after their transfer, the author of a work has the right to object to any deformation, mutilation or any other modifications, as well as any other act to the detriment of the work, that may be prejudicial to their honour or reputation. The architect claimed in fact that both modifications made to his social housing project ‘Casa Bosco’ and the transformation of the project into a for-profit enterprise indeed infringed his moral right of integrity.

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The Court began its analysis by noting that Article 20(2) of the Act also states that . . . “in works of architecture the author cannot object to any modifications that were necessary in the course of their realization. Similarly, they shall not object to any further modifications that were necessary to be made on a work that has been already realized.”

The judges noted that in Italian case law there have been two main interpretations of this provision. On the one hand, there is a restrictive view according to which the only possible modifications are those which in any case do not infringe the author’s moral right of integrity (hence, the provision would only apply with regard to economic rights). On the other hand, the prevalent view is that the derogation within Article 20(2) also applies to the right of integrity [this view appears preferable, also if one considers the fact that it is included within the provision devoted to moral rights]: the authorization of the author is not needed for any modifications that are detrimental to their honour or reputation should such modifications be indispensable to the realization of the work.

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The modifications lamented by the architect concerned: (1) the removal of contractual clauses relating to the future sale of the units; (2) the modification of the ratio between free construction- and social construction-reserved areas.

Link to the rest at The 1709 Blog

Disclaimer: The OP represents the only knowledge PG can remember ever obtaining about Italian real property law.

Based upon his knowledge of Italian real property law, PG would be disinclined to acquire any house or apartment designed by an architect. While he believes the rights of creators are important and should be recognized, if a typical home buyer spends a great deal of money acquiring a house and lives within its walls, the buyer should be able to make such modifications as he/she/they believe necessary or desirable.

With no disrespect toward the architect, the homeowner has a more intimate, personal and private relationship with the structure than the architect does. If an architectural feature interferes with the homeowner’s personal enjoyment of the home, the homeowner should be able to modify it as necessary to increase the homeowner’s personal enjoyment.

Again PG’s knowledge of Italian real property laws intrudes, but if, as a condition of acquiring the building, the homeowner had a full understanding of the limits on future modifications of the dwelling and willingly agreed to those limits as a condition of owning and/or using the home, PG has less sympathy if the homeowner  later becomes disillusioned with strucure’s design.

Copyright/Intellectual Property, Non-US

2 Comments to “Moral rights and architectural works in a recent Italian decision”

  1. The only reason I can image for giving an architect these kinds of rights is that you’re getting a hell of a discount for the prestige associated with a particular architect. Otherwise, there’s no reason for it to be anything but a work-for-hire.

    • Suzie… There is no provision for “work for hire” under Italian law, and Moral rights are inalienable.

      As I understand it if you want a house in Italy you’d generally deal with it contractually by transfering economic rights to the commissioner and requiring the architect to agree to a schedule of fees for future modification of the work.

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