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Copyrights – Architect cannot restrain building owner from demolishing it


20th June 2019

The Delhi High Court has held that the Plaintiff’s (architect’s) copyright in the work of architecture does not extend to any rights over the building based on the architecture such that plaintiff can seek damages for demolition of the said building.

The question before the Court was whether an architect, as author of artistic work of architecture in the form of a building and having a copyright therein, has a right to restrain the owner from demolishing the said building and if the building has been demolished, to demand compensation.

The Court in the case of Raj Rewal v. Union of India observed that unless a right to prevent the owner of the land, on which the artistic work of the architecture is executed, from using his land, is expressly provided, the owner of land cannot be so excluded in the garb of copyright.

It took note of the various judgments of the Supreme Court on right to property and held that when the Constitution in Article 300-A mandates that no person shall be deprived of his property save by authority of law, no law unless expressly providing for deprivation of property can, by implication be interpreted as depriving a person of his property.

Dismissing the copyright infringement suit, the Court, however, acknowledged that the Plaintiff may have rights under Section 57 of the Copyrights Act in cases where the building based on the protected work of architecture was so altered such that it looks otherwise than as designed by the author / architect.

It held that the embargo under the said provisions is only to making the copyrighted work look something other than as created and not against effacing the copyright work.

The Court also noted that the defendants also owe a duty to the plaintiff, whose work and creation was embodied in the building/structure, to inform in advance of the demolition and explain to the plaintiff their reasons therefor and to give an opportunity to him to do whatsoever he desired with the building before demolishing it.

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