What you Need to Understand About Home Design Copyright

Building a new home is an exciting process, and one of the first steps is deciding on the design. Are you after a forever home? Do you want to be able to grow with your home? Have you got a dream design that you’ve got your heart set on? Before starting the whole building process, it’s important to have a clear understanding of home design copyright before proceeding with anything. After all, you don’t want to run into any trouble should you unknowingly breach copyright laws trying to build your dream home! Here we break down what exactly is copyrighted and how to avoid breaching it.

What exactly is home design copyright?

In a basic sense, copyright protects the intellectual property of the creator, and in the building world means that the architect, draftsperson, or whoever created the house design or sketches has exclusive rights to their work. If you created the design from scratch, using original concepts, you own the rights to the design, even if you aren’t a professional. Copyright is inherent, so as soon as pen hits paper (or a design is created using software), it cannot be recreated or copied by another party.

This means that you can’t go to Builder A, get them to design a home for you, and then take those same designs to Builder B to build your house. At the end of the day, it prevents clients from taking someone else’s work and going elsewhere to build it.

It’s also important to know that even if you take the design from Builder A to Builder B and they make changes to the original plans, this can still be a breach of copyright. There is a common belief that if 10% of the original design is changed, that this is enough of a difference that you are covered, however it isn’t as simple as this. If a design still has significant similarities to the original, it’s still considered to be infringing copyright. Defining what is an original design, and what has simply been used as inspiration, can sometimes be a grey area, and at the end of the day it’s up to the court to determine whether copyright infringement has occurred, should the case be taken that far.

Copyright does not protect everything, for example general concepts or ideas. A house with 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom, facing north on a corner block can’t be copyrighted, but the exact floor plan and layout will be.

How to avoid breaching copyright

The easiest way to avoid breaching copyright? Just ask for permission. If you have found the perfect plans for your home and they were designed by someone else, it’s best practice to simply ask for permission to use the design. The owner of the design can issue you with a license or assignment, usually for a fee, so that you can legally use their design. A licence will allow you to use their design, but does not give you ownership. Often, a licence is given with specific instructions for use, meaning that you are only allowed to use the house design on the specific block of land you have, and only once. This prevents you building the same house multiple times in different locations and profiting off of someone else’s design. An assignment is the transference of ownership, and gives the purchaser exclusive rights to the design.

When it comes down to it, be respectful and upfront with each designer or builder. At Lofty, we have an experienced and dedicated team who are able to answer any questions you have about the home building process, including design copyright. We have our own team of designers that come up with unique layouts and designs, and are also experienced in creating custom floor plans for your home.

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