Homebuilder Infringes Copyrights By Posting House Drawings on Its Website

Scholz Design, Inc. obtained copyright registrations for homes it designed in 1988 and 1989.  Scholz submitted both technical drawings and front-elevation drawings, i.e., scale drawings of the fronts of the homes, to the Copyright Office.  Scholz entered into contracts with Sard Custom Homes, LLC, allowing Sard to construct homes from Scholz’s copyrighted home plans.  Sometime after the contracts ended, Sard posted Scholz’s front-elevation drawings on Sard’s websiteScholz sued Sard, alleging copyright infringement, trademark infringement, breach of contract and Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) violations.

Sard argued that Scholz’s drawings could not receive copyright protection, as they were registered prior to the effective date of the Architectural Works Copyright Protection Act (AWCPA) and they did not contain enough detail to construct a building.  The district court agreed with Sard and dismissed the complaint.  The Second Circuit reversed, vacated and remanded the district court’s ruling.

Copyright protection of a pictorial work, whether depicting a house, or a flower, or a donkey, or an abstract design, does not depend on any degree of detail.  The rights Scholz claims in this suit derive from the general copyright law and not from the AWCAP, which has no relevance to the suit.

(Opinion pdf page 8).

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