Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Does Architect Own Copyright in Building Photos?

Dear Rich: I have an architectural practice and have posted the photographs of a number of completed projects on a web site called Houzz. Now, a past client has seen my photos of her project and is demanding that I remove them. There was no clause in our contract either way, although I'm certain that case law has established that the rights to the architectural design and drawings remains with me, the professional who created them. But what about images of the completed project? Thanks for the link to Houzz.com, where we spent several hours deciding whether we liked our home office (photo) better than the posted ones (we did).
Right, you had a question. Image copyrights are owned by the person who created the image - the photographer. If the image contains separately copyrightable material--for example, there's artwork within the image, or the architectural design is copyrightable --  then permission is required from the photographer and the artist or architect whose work appears in the photo. There are many exceptions to these rules, for example, if the exterior is publicly viewable or the reproduction qualifies as a fair use. We wrote about many of these issues in this post on architectural photos. The only other issues that might arise would be contractual (did you agree not to post images?) or privacy (did you invade the client's privacy in some way by posting the images?). Assuming these are standard interior shots without client identification (as commonly seen on Houzz), we doubt that the latter issue will arise.

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