In an interesting appeal before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, captioned as Scholz Design, Inc. v. Sard Custom Homes, LLC, Prudential Connecticut Realty, & Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate, LLC, the Court held that the Copyright Act's protection of 'pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works' also protects architectural works from infringement. Therefore, graphical renditions of architectural work, before they are made into final construction drawings, which have sufficient detail to enable constructions of homes based upon them, also contain protected expression.
The pictures at issue in this case were front elevation drawings showing the appearance of the front of the houses surrounded by lawn, bushes, and trees.
This decision is huge for the architectural industry as it greatly expands our understanding of protected works for architects. Moreover, the decision highlights the risks that real estate companies face by promoting protected works on their sites without express permission. All brokerage houses should carefully perform due diligence on the sketches of buildings that they post on their websites before approving such a posting.
To read a copy of the decision, click here.