Rights Granted to Architects by Copyright Law

Copyright in architectural works is established under 17 U.S.C. Sec. 102(a)(8).
Moreover, protection of pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works is established under 17 U.S.C. Sec 102(a)(5).
Thus, architects can receive two levels of protection for their works: one for the design of as embodied in buildings, architectural plans, or drawings under sec. 102(a)(8) and one for diagrams, models, and technical
drawings themselves under sec. 102(a)(5).

Copyright in a design, whether registered under sec. 102(a)(5) or sec 102(a)(8), generally an
architect the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, display, and prepare a work based upon the
design. This protection, unless the work is a work-made-for-hire, lasts for the life of the author
plus 70 years. However, several limitations on those rights apply depending upon which section
the work is registered under. The most significant limitation to registering a design as a "pictorial,
graphic, or sculptural" work under sec. 102(a)(5) is that the copyright owner cannot prevent the
construction of a building based upon the registered design. In contrast, while construction of a
building can be prevented under sec. 102(a)(8), two other important limitations apply apply when
registering a design as an "architectural work." First, when a building is ordinarily visible from a public
place, its protection as an "architectural work" does not include the right to prevent the making,
distributing, or public display of pictures, photographs, or other pictorial representations of the work.
Thus, the architect will not be able to prevent people from taking photographs or otherwise producing
pictorial representations of the building. Second, owners of a copyrighted building may both make
or authorize the making of alterations to the building and destroy or authorize destruction of the
building. Thus, the architect will not have the right to prevent the owner of a house that he or she
designed from altering or destroying the building. This exception also allows owners of partially
complete buildings to complete the building using construction plans created by the architect."

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