Gaudí’s Immortal Copyright

Who does Sagrada Família belong to?

Photo: Interior of the Basílica de la Sagrada Família

In 1882, Antonio Gaudí conceived the project of Barcelona basilica as “the last sacred place of the Chrisianity”.

The construction of the basilica, commenced at the times of the Spanish empire, lasted through the deposition of the Bourbons, the Second Spanish Republic, the Civil war of 1936–1939, Franco’s dictature, the restauration of the Bourbons, Spain’s accession to the European Union, and the signing of the Catalan declaration of independence in 2017. The construction is still under way.

Thus, the basilica is one of the longest-lasting architectural projects in the history of the mankind.

When Antonio Gaudí died on 10 June 1926 at the age of 73, only the first façade of the future basilica, the Nativity façade, had been completed.

Photo: Basilica de la Sagrada Família in the 1920s [https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Templo_Expiatorio_de_la_Sagrada_Familia#/media/File:Baldomer_Gili_Roig._La_Sagrada_Fam%C3%ADlia,_1905_Copia_moderna_del_negatiu_original_de_vidre.jpg]

It is believed that the architect started with this particular façade of his main oeuvre on purpose, its design suiting the traditions of classical architecture most of all.

Gaudí seemed to foresee the times for striking and daring architectural solutions, with one hundred years required for the aesthetic taste of the society to become less conservative and for the public to appreciate the decoration of the more provocative Passion and Glory façades.

Photo: Models of the Basilica in Gaudí’s workshop [http://evocativesynthesis.tumblr.com/image/30248911155]

Despite the architect’s death, the construction of the monument continued according to his plans. Its completion is currently planned for 2026, when the one-hundredth anniversary of Gaudí’s death will be celebrated.

The century-long gap between the death of the architect and the completion of the basilica as conceived by Gaudí encourages a legal discussion on the intellectual property rights.

Photo: View of the Nativity façade today

The general rule limits the copyright to the lifetime of the author plus a certain period after their death. The posthumous copyright duration has been prolonged many times, but even today it does not exceed 70 years.

Furthermore, the Spanish legislation provides an additional protection to the copyright of those whose works became publicized, that is, presented to the public in their finite form, after the author’s death. Such works are protected during 70 years from their posthumous publication. However, the publication has to take place less than 70 years after the death of the author, which is not the case of Antonio Gaudí.

As the result, one may believe that Gaudí’s copyright for the Sagrada Família had expired before it started, as the 70 years have passed and the construction has not yet finished.

Photo: View of the Passion façade today

However, our research has proved this assumption wrong.

Apparently, it cannot be said that Gaudí’s copyright has expired or that it has never started; on the contrary, it is still valid and will probably remain so at least till the end of the XXI century.

In 2005, Barcelona’s Eighth Court passed a judgement in the case Junta Constructora del Templo Expiatorio de la Sagrada Familia vs Toni Meca, which opposed the organisation supervising the construction of the basilica and the author of the virtual reconstruction of the Sagrada Família at the projected stage of completion.

The court established that Antonio Gaudí is the sole author of the drawings and models of the Basílica de la Sagrada Família, but not the sole author of the monument. After the architect’s death, the construction of the basilica continued under the supervision of his disciples and followers.

Image: Some of the architects who played a role in the construction of the basilica

As Sagrada Família is not Gaudí’s individual work, but the result of a collaboration, the copyright for the basilica has not yet expired.

The copyright for Sagrada Família is still valid and will remain valid (according to the current Spanish legislation) for at least 70 years upon the completion of the construction, or, if the construction is suspended at some point, for 70 years after the death of the last among Gaudí’s co-authors.

Besides, Sagrada Família is protected not only as a work of collaboration by a group of authors headed by Antonio Gaudí.

The Spanish and the European registers of trademarks contain a number of registrations protecting the name and the design of the basilica.

Image: Trademarks of JUNTA CONSTRUCTORA DEL TEMPLE EXPIATORI DE LA SAGRADA FAMILIA

Curiously, not only the basilica but also the name of Antonio Gaudí is protected by a series of trademarks. Different rightsholders, not related to each other in any way, have registered these trademarks for different classes of goods and services.

Image: Exemple of a few of the 409 trademarks containing “Gaudí” element registered in the main jurisdictions of the world

* * *

Antonio Gaudí remained single for his entire life.

Unlike Victor Hugo, he had no heir to fight for his intellectual property rights.

Gaudí’s legacy is the beautiful Sagrada Família and a dozen other unique architectural monuments.

This makes us all, to some extent, the heirs of Antonio Gaudí.

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Author: Igor Nevzorov, Translation: Ekaterina Bereznikova

Stories related both to intellectual property law and history of humankind from the places where important events occured.

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