Thursday 3 January 2013

China: the country that can copy anything

We seem to talk about China quite a bit on this blog (see Ben's report on Apple here and my post on China's new copyright registration system here): the economic boom which it has been enjoying for the last decade, coupled with its "get rich now, fix problems later" attitude means that the country has widely-publicised problems with copyright infringement. The latest example being wholesale copying of an as yet uncompleted building, the Wangjing SOHO in Beijing.

An example of Zaha Hadid's designs
© Associated Fabrication
The SOHO building comprises three curving towers. It was designed by the Iraqi-British architect, Dame Zaha Hadid, who recently designed the Aquatics Centre for the London Olympics and who no fewer than  11 current projects in China. The SOHO towers are currently under construction, yet a group of pirate architects and construction teams is already building a copy of the towers in Chongqing , in southern China. Embarrassingly, the pirates look set to complete their building before the original is finished.
According to the German newspaper Der Spiegel, Yet You Yunting, a Shanghai-based lawyer has said that China's copyright law includes protection for works of architecture and that "SOHO could have a good chance of winning litigation in this case." However he says that "even if the judge rules in favor of SOHO, the court will not force the defendant to pull the building down. But it could order the payment of compensation."

Zaha Hadid is said to have a philosophical stance on the copying of her designs: If future generations of these cloned buildings display innovative mutations, "that could be quite exciting." I wonder if the financial backers of the Wangjing SOHO project feel the same way?
You can see a picture of the Wangjing SOHO towers here.

1 comment:

Andy J said...

This strikes me as another instance of the idea prevailing over the expression as the basis of a claim of infringement. It's hard to tell from the artist's impressions but really the buildings, whilst similar, aren't copies either in their height or their envelope shape. Curved buildings are hardly a novel architectural concept. Indeed one might think these Chinese structures are just pregnant versions of the Swiss Re building (the Gherkin) or City Hall in London. It will be interesting to see how this story is resolved.