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This is a draft, to be completed, to clarify certain complex aspects of copyright law in Italy.

Italy has an exceptional heritage of artworks. They are entrusted to different institutions that can enforce copyright.

FOP in Italy for recent buildingsEdit

Building with important artistic characterEdit

In Italy almost all buildings are considered below the threshold of originality by law.

Architects are copyright holders[1], but in order to use their rights (for instance, to be able to approve successive modifications to the building he made), they must register the building for protected as a "building with important artistic character". Otherwise the building is considered below the threshold of originality, and any other architect can modify it.

Who decides whether a building can justly claim important artistic character? The Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Tourism (Ministero dei Beni e delle Attività Culturali e del Turismo) makes such decisions through Directorate-General for Contemporary Art and Architecture and Urban Peripheries (DGAAP) (Direzione Generale Arte e Architettura contemporanee e Periferie urbane A commission evaluates the requests for protection and when the "important artistic character" is recognized, it will add a building to "the list" [2].

Only the architect himself can submit this registration, because the heirs are not considered accountable to evaluate the exceptionality of an architecture work.[3] For death architects, there is nobody that can enforce the copyright, if the building has never been registered.

Since the only institution that can enforce copyright declares that the buildings not in "the list" are below the threshold of originality, there is nothing to prevent the publication of images of recent unregistered buildings. Most buildings in Italy are unregistered, of course, even if some well known architects have done so, like Calatrava or Cosenza[2]. The copyright of the photograph of a building in a public place (or in a private place) belongs to the photographer.

The appearance of a building is not protected by copyright lawEdit

  • In Italy there have never been lawsuits about copyright on a photo of a recent building

Historically, there never were trials in Italy about copyright over photographs of buildings, because the Law considers to be a derivative work only the modifications of the project/plan (and consecutively, of the building itself, bricks and concrete)[4]. Protected works are only those of artistic character, thus any modification of the project -- in the very practical sense that nobody can modify the structure of a registered building (i.e., adding a balcony, changing the structure of the rooms, etc) -- without the consent of the architect are not permitted for protected buildings. This is true even if the owner of the building proposes the changes, or if the architect originally worked for hire.[5]. However, for buildings that are not recognised by the Ministry, the owner can perform any change to the building itself, without the permission of the architect of of the heirs (because the building is considered not copyrightable)[3].

It is never stated that the copyright protection of an architectural work extends to its appearance. Italian 1941 Copyright Law protects the technical drawings (e.g. "blueprints") just like it does with a painting or any other drawing. If the building is registered as having "important artistic character" with the Directorate-General for Contemporary Art and Architecture and Urban Peripheries, copyright protects the right of architects to forbid modifications without consent. This is confirmed by the fact that the Italian Society of Authors and Publishers (Società Italiana degli Autori ed Editori - SIAE) has declared that it is not interested, and never has been interested, in collecting rights from photos of recent buildings.

Add by Blackcat: Further, historically Italy has always privileged material property (ownership) over intellectual property. That means that for unique works (thus different from music records or books) the ownership rights weight more than the intellectual rights, for obvious reasons: an architect cannot claim intellectual ownership over a work made on commission and on which has no longer any property. That include also government palaces and buildings, stadiums (which are usually property of municipalities) which are public property in Italy.


For older buildings (where 70 ypma hold), the Soprintendenza is in charge the rights because any reproduction or modification must be approved[6]. Decreto Urbani rules how to manage any potential economical flow about these heritage assets entrusted to the Italian Government. What interests Commons is that a fee can be requested for usage of reproductions of the cultural assets in a commercial work published in Italy (and only there). Such a fee would not affect Commons. We just add {{Italy-MiBAC-disclaimer}} in the file page.


  1. The same rights are always granted to engineers, land surveyors, building experts, and other professionals, as long as they are licensed to design a building, whatever it be.
  2. a b Direzione Generale Arte e Architettura contemporanee e Periferie urbane: List of individual decrees
  3. a b Sentenze del Consiglio di Stato: Sez. VI, 26 July 2001, n.4122 and 15 April 2008, n.1749.
  4. Copyright notes – Direzione Generale Arte e Architettura contemporanee e Periferie urbane: English versionItalian version
  5. This does not applies to buildings belonging to the State, the Local Communities, and to a non-profit institution, which assets are protected 20 years after creation by the copyright law. (Art. 11 & 29 – but probably buildings themselves are not protected, because the clauses talk about "publishing".)
  6. Decreto Urbani, and following modifications and integrations.