Detail Not Required for Copyright Protection of House Plans
Posted on Aug. 27, 2012

Copyright protection does not require that architectural drawings have sufficient detail to allow for actual construction. That was the recent decision in Scholz Design v. Sard Custom Homes LLC, where a homebuilder used without permission images of a designer’s home plans. “Copyright protection of a pictorial work, whether depicting a house, or a flower, or a donkey, or an abstract design, does not depend on any degree of detail,” the court said. “The rights Scholz claims in this suit derive from the general copyright law and not from the [Architectural Works Copyright Protection Act (AWCPA)], which has no relevance to the suit.”

Before the AWCPA was enacted in 1990, architectural drawings were protected as a “pictorial, graphic, and sculptural work.” After the AWCPA, the copyright holder has two forms of protection: one as an “architectural work” and one as a “pictorial, graphic, and sculptural work.” The court said the AWCPA was irrelevant to this matter and saw no reason that the house drawings should be treated differently from other pictorial works: “Andrew Wyeth and Edward Hopper were famous for their paintings of houses, and Claude Monet for paintings of the Houses of Parliament and of Rouen Cathedral. None of these depictions of buildings were sufficiently detailed to guide construction of the buildings depicted, but that would surely not justify denying them copyright protection.”

Construction Law
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About Adam

Attorney Adam T. Mow

Adam is a trusted resource for architects, engineers and other members of the construction industry in litigation, risk management, contract negotiations and mechanics’ liens. Adam is also a licensed architect and a past president of the Utah chapter of the American Institute of Architects. He has been elected by his peers to the Utah Legal Elite since 2009.

Awards and Recognition

AV Rating

Excellence in the Study of Architecture, American Institute of Architects Certificate of Merit, 1999

CALI Award for Excellence in Mediation and Advanced Negotiation, 2003

Community Mediator of the Year, Utah Dispute Resolution, 2007

Graduate of the Last Decade, Ball State University, 2008

Utah Business Magazine, Legal Elite, 2009-Present

Mountain States Rising Stars (Construction Litigation), 2009-Present