Can You Copyright Interiors?

If you go to someone’s apartment or home or shop and are like “Damn, this place looks good.” and you like it so much that you recreate your own space to look exactly like it, is that wrong?

That is the question being asked by some French Airbnb renters who feel the style of their home is being ripped off. The home sharing company apparently copied the Parisian home artwork-for-artwork, lighting-fixture-for-lighting-fixture and the owners—the people who originally styled a space—are pissed. They feel that they’re being ripped off.

As Buzzfeed reports, there is some ambiguity on if coping a person’s interior(s) is something that you could be sued for.

“They are branding their company with our life,” Dewé said. “We decided to go directly to the lawyer.”

Airbnb has been very public about the fact that conference rooms and office spaces in its San Francisco headquarters are modeled off of popular listings on the site. One of the main spaces for meetings is based off of the apartment where CEO Brian Chesky lived when he founded the company. But it’s now unclear whether the company asked permission from those hosts to copy their homes — or whether the hosts even knew that their personal spaces were becoming part of a global brand. (Airbnb declined to comment on this story.)

It’s hard to tell what kind of chances the couple has with their suit. The couple’s lawyer, Carole Soudri, told BuzzFeed News that there will be a hearing in Paris in December in which the company “will try to send the case to the California court,” where it’s based. She told de Las Cases and Dewé that the case could take five, eight, or even ten years to reach a conclusion.

It makes sense and it doesn’t. If you apply this math in other creative fields, it does and doesn’t hold up. If you give ten people the same clothing items to make an outfit and one person makes it one way and another person makes it the same way, is that a problem? What about with food? What about with hair styles?

It’s difficult to say where inspiration and copying ends but, as you can tell here, adoration has very quickly turned into copying. This is really fucked up although, yes, this copying is being done in an office—not in a retail space. Some credit is owed here in some capacity and it opens up an entirely other world many haven’t thought about: can you copy a style? Not a feel and not an homage but a style. That seems wrong, especially with interiors. We’ll all have to watch and see what happens here.

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