Bring on the lawyers, SOM allegedly steals student's design
November 10, 2004 8:10 AM   Subscribe

Thomas Shine, a former Yale student, is suing David Childs for copyright infringement Mr. Childs of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill for copyright infringement over the design of the Freedom Tower located at Ground Zero. Shine alleges in his lawsuit that the proposed Freedom Tower was "strikingly similar" to his "Olympic Tower" design for the proposed 2012 Olympic Games in New York.
posted by plemeljr (21 comments total)
Childs was on a December 1999 design jury evaluating Mr. Shine's design and reportedly said in a Yale Architecture magazine, "It is a very beautiful shape. You took the skin and developed it around the form - great!" How many iterations from the original must art/design be for it to be a "new work" and can design/art be copyrightable?
posted by plemeljr at 8:10 AM on November 10, 2004

It may or may not be copyright, but every working designer knows what it feels like when someone walks off with your best ideas and hasn't the grace to acknowledge it.

The least Childs could do is attribute the innovation in as public a manner as possible, and in a way that'll give Shine the career mojo he deserves. 'Cause from what I know of the two proposals, he'll have a hard time demonstrating that his previous exposure to Shine's work didn't color the (ahem) "Freedom Tower" plans.
posted by adamgreenfield at 8:24 AM on November 10, 2004

Are we still pissed of at the French? Or can we call it French Tower now?
posted by Eekacat at 8:38 AM on November 10, 2004

This is off-topic, but holding the Olympics here in New York City is assinine, unless your goal is to make living through the construction and the games themselves a Hell. (Which would almost -- but not quite -- be made up for by the insane price I would rent my apartment out for those few weeks.)
posted by papercake at 8:45 AM on November 10, 2004

The least Childs could do is attribute the innovation in as public a manner as possible

They could agree to rename it the Shine Tower. I don't want to spend the rest of my life making air quotes to taxi drivers.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 8:49 AM on November 10, 2004

Should prove to be an interesting case for copyright law/prior art and architecture. I'm glad Shine is suing. More power to him. He probably won't win, but at least he is making a stand. Thanks plemeljr!
posted by shoepal at 8:49 AM on November 10, 2004

"Ninety percent of all art is imitation of other art."

-- H. L. Mencken
posted by jfuller at 9:00 AM on November 10, 2004

"can design/art be copyrightable?"

Yes. Any original idea fixed in a tangible medium of expression is subject to copyright protection. You don't even have to register it for protection, although registration is a good idea for several reasons I won't bore you with. The fact that the defendant here had obvious access to the plaintiff's original work is of major significance. I would have taken the plaintiff's case on a contingency basis, I think he stands a very good chance of winning. [Of course, I don't actually practice copyright law, so I may be full of crapola. Any IP attorneys in the house?]
posted by Outlawyr at 9:22 AM on November 10, 2004

Ah, I see how it is.

"Ninety percent of all art is imitation of other art."

-- Adam Greenfield.

You may quote me.
posted by adamgreenfield at 9:27 AM on November 10, 2004

I may not know art, but I know plagiarism.

Copyright (C) Armitage Shanks 2004. All rights reserved.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 9:35 AM on November 10, 2004

You may quote me.

Actually, since this site is Matt's property, wouldn't we have to ask him first?
posted by Pollomacho at 9:48 AM on November 10, 2004

I made a twisty tower out of Lincoln Logs sometime back in the early 70's.

posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:49 AM on November 10, 2004

Actually, since this site is Matt's property, wouldn't we have to ask him first?

Nope- per the bottom of each page: All posts are © their original authors.
posted by mkultra at 10:10 AM on November 10, 2004

A better article here includes more detail on the legal positions:

D: "Elizabeth Kubanye, the spokeswoman for Childs' firm, said in an e-mail Tuesday that the lawsuit is "specious." Kubanye said though Shine's Olympic Tower and Childs' Freedom Tower share common design elements, most of their features have been industry standards for decades."

P: " Shine's attorney, Andrew Baum, said the two designs are similar in many respects. He said both skyscraper designs are similar in their twisting towers, symmetrical exterior diagonal column grids, and patterns of "elongated diamonds."

Other: "There is a similarity there -- a visible similarity," said Garvin, who resigned in 2003 as planning director of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, which is responsible for building Freedom Tower. "I have no way of telling whether it was intentional."
posted by Outlawyr at 10:26 AM on November 10, 2004

Here's Mr. Shine's design. It seems pretty clear to me that the design of Childs is a riff on the technique / or "inspired by" in some ways for sure. But the two buildings look very different -- there's no way you'd make a mistake between the two, if that's a criteria.
posted by zpousman at 11:45 AM on November 10, 2004

Brilliant! Childs' defense is to admit the design is unoriginal.

Maybe now they'll reconsider just scrapping the project. The site should not be built upon. Instead, there should be a park - a forest. Oh, and I think we should let packs of wolves run free there, as a symbolic reminder that we now live in an age of perpetual fear.
posted by eatitlive at 1:32 PM on November 10, 2004

Libeskind had envisioned a 1,776-foot tower with a spiraling shape that echoed the Statue of Liberty.

From the first link

Maybe I'm just art-impaired, but why is it when most architects say something is designed to "echo" something else, it just doesn't echo for me??
posted by Samizdata at 5:36 PM on November 10, 2004

I still think they should have just rebuilt the towers, taking into account the major criticisms that endured about the site (mostly regarding the underground mall and the pedestrian flow). Or they should have rebuilt them, but in a bright white or something to make them really stand out. Some stupid freedom tower is lame when we used to have a World Trade.
posted by cell divide at 5:45 PM on November 10, 2004

FWIW: David Childs is an absolute, complete, and utter ass. Here is what Childs said about the World Trade Towers in May 2002 in an interview with TIME magazine:

"...they were symbols of the mid-century arrogance of architects...what they (the towers and their designers) did to Lower Manhattan was an act of vandalism just as complete as September 11th."
posted by davidmsc at 7:42 PM on November 10, 2004

Wait wait. We agree about something?
posted by adamgreenfield at 11:21 PM on November 11, 2004

(You and I, I mean, not Childs.)

You'll have to excuse me this morning. Red Bull may indeed give one wings, but Red Bull and vodka only gives one pause.
posted by adamgreenfield at 11:22 PM on November 11, 2004

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