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Marina Towers Owns You

By Louis in Arts & Entertainment on Nov 9, 2007 7:07PM

110807_MarinaMissing.jpgObviously still angry about being featured on the cover of Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Marina Towers Condominium Association (which only owns the top 40 floors of the two 60 floor towers) is now claiming a copyright in the name and image of Chicago's famous corn cobs. The entire document can be found here (pdf), and seems primarily to be a response to Marina City Online, a website run by Steve Dahlman, a resident with no affiliation with the Condo Association. However, the decree has greater implications, as the Association is claiming copyright protection in all commercial uses of the name or image of the building. The Rule in question is Rule 5, which contains the following,

Because of the architectural significance of our building, the condominium association holds a common law copyright on the use of the association name and building image. This means under federal and Illinois law, advertisers, movie-makers, and others cannot use the association name or image without first obtaining express written permission from the association.

We are 100% sure that under federal law, a copyright in an architectural work does not prevent others from taking photos of the building (United States Code, Title 17, Section 102(a) and Section 120(a)).

The copyright in an architectural work that has been constructed does not include the right to prevent the making, distributing, or public display of pictures, paintings, photographs, or other pictorial representations of the work, if the building in which the work is embodied is located in or ordinarily visible from a public place. 17 USC 120(a)
Translation: take all the pictures you want.

However, the Association also references state copyright law (which for the most part doesn't exist) and the Illinois Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act. The application of the state law is tenuous at best since there isn't any real precedent regarding buildings, but we will leave the legal analysis to the parties involved.

Such an ignorant rule suggests that any photo or film featuring any building would have to pay to use that building's image. Since Chicagoist is a commercial venture, according to the Association we are potentially at risk for copyright violation merely by using the name Marina Towers (which search shows is in use by no less than 7 other cities). So let 'er rip, Marina Towers, Marina Towers, Marina Towers!