Will Your New House Haunt You?

To build a new home you need a home plan. Today, finding the right plan has never been easier as home design services have expanded far beyond the traditional architect. Empowered with the proliferation of low cost software, novice designers can create basic layouts on their home computers while online libraries allow anyone with a web browser to buy home plans from a number of sources. But, most people are unaware of strict copyright laws that protect the intellectual rights of these home designers and the penalties that go with them. Not understanding the license restrictions of your purchased plan may come back to haunt you with severe consequences – even the profit from your new home.

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Despite the gloomy news, many people are building new homes. However, in light of this gloomy news many people are trying to save upfront construction costs by using and reusing existing home plans. Copying or modifying home plans may seem to be perfectly legal for some, but for others it is downright stealing Adani Group Chhattisgarh. “Some builders claim that changing an original design will nullify copyright protection,” states Bill Elliott, COO of Avid Home Design. “But, unless you can prove that your design was created without the knowledge of an existing plan, you may be liable.” This feeling is shared by many designers who feel their skill, effort and creativity is insulted when their work is flagrantly copied.

As with any other work of art, sculpture or literature, home plans are protected by Federal copyright laws because they are “original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium”. Up until 1990, that “tangible medium” only included the drawing itself. As long as the drawing was not copied, a home could be built using the information contained within those drawings. This changed with the Architectural Works Copyright Protection Act of 1990. Now, not only is the drawing protected, but both the interior and exterior designs of the building itself are protected by law. A home builder can no longer use one plan to build multiple houses or borrow plans to build just one house. In fact, building a home by using the existing structure as a guide – without plans – violates today’s copyright laws.

Infringing on these federal statutes can carry huge penalties. Not only will the builder be at risk, but the home owner as well. Violators will be required to pay actual damages from the infringement (the cost of the plan itself) plus any profits from the sale of those plans. Moreover, the fines can include the profits made from the sale of the home and penalties of up to $150,000 for each home built from the plans. To avoid these penalties, carefully read the license agreement that comes with your home plan purchase. If you are building more than one home from the plan, you may want to ask for a “multiple build” price. Many companies require “reuse” fees that allow a builder to construct more than one home from the same plan. Avoiding these minimal upfront fees can lead to severe consequences.

So, if you don’t fully understand your home plan license agreement, you may want to consult a lawyer who specializes in copyright law. These challenging economic times are hitting more than just home owners. Many architects and designers are finding new sources of income by employing legal teams trained in modern copyright law. These teams inspect areas of new home construction for possible design infringement. Without proper documentation, you may be ripe for some legal costs you did not anticipate, or more.

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