How can you protect the concept of an Art Exhibition?

A recent ruling of the Supreme Court held that an exposition may be considered an intellectual work and, thus, it can be protected by copyright. Therefore, moral and economic rights can be recognised to curators or the organizers. The realization of an exhibition may be the expression of a creative idea: on the one side you protect the concept, that is the originality of the theme, on the other side, you protect the project, ie the creative operation that precedes the actual preparation. In this sense, the exhibits are the result of a complex and expensive process of planning and organization, which deserves to be protected.

The case submitted to the Italian Supreme Court concerned a TV report released by RAI SAT, which, presenting an exhibition, didn’t respected its content, violating the economic rights recognized by law to the authors of the work. It was ascertained the creativity of the TV show, as necessary element of a copyright. In other cases, the Italian courts had rejected requests for declaration and protection of a copyright because there were no evidence that the objects of the exhibition had been arranged in an original way. In some cases, moreover, the judges have gone further and have expanded the protection to entire museums. It's what happened in Paris when in 2006 the Courts have recognized the quality of "work of genius" at the Museum of Cinema Henri Langlois.

Although Italian Case Law seems to agree in granting protection to exhibitions, it seems harder  lead the case to a legal institution provided by the legislator. In our legal system, protection of copyright is guaranteed by the provisions of law n. 633 of 1941, which includes all the works belonging to “literature, music, visual arts, architecture, theatre, cinematography, ..., as well as databases that, for the selection or arrangement of their contents, constitute own intellectual creation”. With an interpretative effort the exhibition could be considered as a database, since it is a "collection of works, data or other materials, arranged in a systematic or methodical way” (article 2, subparagraph 9, l 633/41). Or, you may include the exhibition within Article 4 of Law 633 of 1941, which recognises as intellectual works also derivative works, i.e. "the creative processing itself, such as translation into another language, transformations into any other literary or artistic form, modifications and additions constituting a substantial makeover of the original work, adaptations and abridgments which do not constitute an original work ".

In both cases, an essential condition for the existence of a copyright for shows and exhibitions is the originality and creativity of the intellectual work.