Last month I was threatened with police intervention after taking pictures of my two-year-old. Why? We were in what you might think of as analogous to an outdoor mall. It’s a former industrial complex that’s listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Today the area has been revitalized with restaurants and office space, a large greenspace in the middle, and an attractive manmade river and waterfall. Despite there being no signs to indicate such, security informed me that the owners of the space have prohibited photography in order to “protect the intellectual property of the architecture.”
I thought it was interesting that the security guard used the general term “intellectual property.” Most of the time when this happens, photographers are told they’re violating a copyright or trademark, but the terms are used interchangeably and inconsistently. Common understanding of those terms is pretty low, so they’re often misused in general. But it’s even more understandable in cases like this, since it usually doesn’t make much sense to try to apply either.
While copyright law does protect architecture for buildings built after 1990, the space I was in is made up of buildings that are more than 100 years old. Even if it was newer construction, 17 USC 1, Section 120 (a) of copyright law states: