HOW SERIOUS IS COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT?
This dangerous and illegal practice involves persons, who, without permission of the building designer, either (1) reproduce his plans and specifications by blueprint, xerography, photography, tracing or otherwise, or (2) use such reproduced plans and specifications in building a structure.
Chances are, you’ll never be involved with such a practice, but your builder or subcontractor may take it upon himself to copy plans which we have registered in your name. If this happens, contact us immediately, because infringement is illegal and it can be very costly.
The rules are clear: If a builder reproduces the designers copyrighted plans or specifications (or causes them to be reproduced) and uses them without the designers expressed permission, the designers remedies under the Copyright Act are:
- injuction to permanently stop construction, even if the building is in the middle of construction (Section 502 of the Copyright Act);
- recovery of actual damages to the building designer, measured by the market value of the pirated plans and specifications (Section 504);
- “infringer profit” recovery, measured by the infringer’s profits, i.e., if the building was fully complete at the time of the infringement lawsuit and the builder made $150,000 net profit on the construction of the building or on the sale of the completed building, the building designer would recover $150,000 from the builder under Section 504 which characterizes that sum as “infringer’s profits”.
- attorney’s fees under some circumstances (Section 505); and
- prosecution for criminal offense (Section 506)
The judicial decisions on copyright infringement have stopped construction in midstream and/or granted the architect or building designer significant monetary damages equivalent to the builder’s net profits.
Let’s work together to keep the building business honest and protect an important reputation. Yours!
For more information regarding the Copyright Act visit www.copyright.gov.
View our Copyright Policy.
- The key to avoiding copyright infringement is to understand that copying any part of another designer’s or builder’s plan is illegal. If you ask your designer or builder to design or construct the same exact feature found in another builder’s home, it is a violation of copyright.
- Many people believe is that if you alter a plan by a certain percentage, you are not in violation of copyright laws. However, even using another designers plan as a starting point could place you in violation of their copyright.
- It is not unusual to draw inspiration from a plan in a plan book, internet plan room or another house. Ask your builder or designer if they used someone else’s original drawing as a starting point or “inspiration”. If the drawing or home that served as inspiration for the builder or designer is “substantially similar” to the new drawing or home, the new drawing may be a “derivative work.” Unauthorized use of a derivative work to build a house is copyright infringement.