Copyright Protection of Architectural Works
The most recent news in architectural copyrights comes from the Milwaukee Federal District Court case Design Basics, LLC v. Midwet Homes, Inc.. In this case, the plaintiff, Design Basics, asserts that Midwest Homes has violated Design Basics’ copyright over two architectural works titled “Hampton” and “Newberry.” The complaint was filed on November 15, 2013.
In their complaint, Design Basics alleged that between October 1992 and December 1995 Midwest had ordered a total of 26 books containing Design Basics’ design plans. The plans for the two infringed works were contained within these books.
Design Basics further alleged Midwest took the designs for “Newberry” and “Hampton”, and displayed them on Midwest’s website. Midwest did change the name of the “Hampton” plan to “Camelot”, but did not change the name of the “Newberry” plan when posting the architectural designs to their website. Though Midwest has paid for the books in question, Design Basic contends Midwest never entered into a licensing agreement to use any of the designs.
Beyond simply posting the Design Basics Plans to their website for the purpose of marketing, Midwest also allegedly built the structures which the “Newberry” and “Hampton” plans described.
Design Basics seeks an award of actual or statutory damages, temporary and permanent injunctive relief, an order requiring Midwest to turn over all infringing house plans and attorney’s fees.
Clearly, stealing the work of another party and passing it off as your own is a serious breach of the law and business ethics. From a cursory look at the facts that are publicly available at this time, it appears that Midwest might have some serious legal consequences coming their way, and sooner rather than later.