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Unpaid Zaha refuses copyright demands over Tokyo Stadium work

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Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) has said it will not be strong-armed into handing over the copyright of its shelved Tokyo 2020 Stadium designs in return for payment of its outstanding fees

The practice confirmed that the Japan Sports Council (JSC) had recently requested an alteration to the existing contract, effectively allowing the transfer of Zaha’s intellectual property rights for its arena designs to the council in exchange for an overdue final payment.

It is understood the proposed changes to the contract also included a ‘gagging clause’ preventing anyone employed by the practice from commenting on the replacement stadium designs. 

Hadid’s practice, which is owed money for work carried out between March and July last year, has rejected all the JSC’s requests.

ZHA’s competition-winning design for the 80,000-seat stadium was scrapped last July following a row over the escalating cost of the ¥250 billion scheme. 

Late last summer the government launched a second search for a design team and, in December, Japanese architect Kengo Kuma was announced as the stadium’s new designer. When the reworked proposals were revealed, Zaha spoke out about the similarities between the designs of the proposed stadium bowl and those drawn up by her practice – a scheme which ZHA had been working on for more than two years. 

In a statement in response to the latest JSC demands, Zaha Hadid Architects, said: ‘We can confirm that we received and rejected a written request from the Japan Sports Council (JSC) to modify our existing contract to allow the transfer of the copyright of the detailed design for Japan National Stadium, owned by ZHA, in exchange for an overdue final payment.

‘ZHA has also declined a request to sign an additional new contract clause requiring the design team to no longer provide information or comment on the project, in exchange for this outstanding payment being honoured.’

It continued: ‘Since October, we have been seeking to finalise an outstanding payment with the JSC, which is for months of work carried out by a team of more than one hundred architects and engineers in Japan and the UK working for ZHA and many other companies.

‘We welcome that the JSC has acknowledged the issue of the intellectual property for the fundamental and detailed elements of the stadium design. We hope that these matters can be quickly resolved.’

The practice added that it would be taking legal action if the issues over payment and copyright were not resolved.

Further comment:

A spokesperson for Zaha Hadid Architects

’Following a thorough investigation ZHA has today (14 January) submitted a report to the JSC detailing the significant similarities between the structure, layout and numerous elements of the original detailed design for the national stadium for Japan and the latest designs. This document will form the basis for the discussions we hope to resume shortly with the JSC to resolve the important issue of the use of valuable design work that is currently the copyright of ZHA and the original design team.’

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Chris Roche

    Copyright is of fundamental importance to all Architects, and has tremendous value commercially. The existing RIBA suite of client contracts fail to address Copyright protection effectively and need to be looked at critically. I have brought this to the attention of RIBA who I understand have looked at the issues before deciding there is no need to revise current contracts. This is a mistake as most RIBA Contracts agree to a Copyright Licence for Construction - thereby opening the door for unscrupulous developers to replace architects post planning, with little commercial, copyright, or visual control being retained by the original Architect, who will still hold the Copyright. This must change, and Zaha Hadid's stance is to be applauded - there are lessons for all architects, and the RIBA in this case.
    Chris Roche / Founder 11.04
    Former RIBA Council Member

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