Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Do I need permission to photograph a building or a home?


The answer is maybe and the law on the topic can be found at 17 USCA 120(a), which states: 

Pictorial representations permitted.--The copyright in an architectural work that has been constructed does not include the right to prevent the making, distributing, or public display of pictures, paintings, photographs, or other pictorial representations of the work, if the building in which the work is embodied is located in or ordinarily visible from a public place.

So the question now becomes:
First if the building or the home is an architectural work? &
Second if the building or the home is located in or ordinarily visible from a public place? 

To address the first question, one must analyze the Architectural Works Copyright Protection Act (AWCPA).

To address the second question, one must analyze the facts on how & from where the Architectural work was photographed inclusive of the location and topography surrounding the structure.

With respect to the first question, the term architectural work is defined at 17 USCA 101 as "is the design of a building as embodied in any tangible medium of expression, including a building, architectural plans, or drawings. The work includes the overall form as well as the arrangement and composition of spaces and elements in the design, but does not include individual standard features."

Moreover, the AWCPA does not extend protection to architectural works constructed before 12/1/1990. So, these buildings or homes can be photographed, without authority from the owner / architect, regardless if the picture is taken from a public place.

In a nutshell, it is likely that one can take pictures of a building or a home from the street anytime without permission, but be wary about going behind hedges or gates to get your best angle. 

If you have a particular scenario that is unique, you should always consult an attorney and obtain tailored legal advice.

Happy Photographing!!!

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