Copyright and Historical Landmarks

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I recently heard that Dubai has planned to build a replica of the Taj Mahal, which will be four times the size of the original and is expected to be completed in two years. The Taj Arabia complex featuring the replica of the Taj Mahal in Dubai will include a hotel and commercial shopping areas. The complex will also feature structures such as the Great Wall of China, Pyramids, and the Eiffel Tower. The original Taj Mahal was built more than 350 years ago by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan for his wife, Mumtaz, and took over 20 years to complete. 

The original Taj Mahal in the Indian city of Agra

The story got me thinking about how copyright law and architecture intersect. Why is Dubai able to build an exact replica of the Taj Mahal without violating any copyright laws? According to India’s copyright law, even if a copyright had been registered, the rights only last for sixty years following the death of the author of the work. Thus, the work would now be in the public domain. 

Dubai is not the first place to consider building a replica of the historic building, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 2008, a Bangladeshi filmmaker announced that he would build a replica of the Taj Mahal in Bangladesh. The filmmaker stated that he wanted people to be able to see the famous monument even if they could not afford to travel to see the original.