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As an architect, you are often working for clients to create their dream space. When you create content that is eligible for copyright protection, it is important to know who ultimately owns the copyright. This article will serve as a copyright guide for architects, and provide you with tips on sharing your copyright protected work with your clients.

What Is Copyright?

Copyright is a type of intellectual property. As an architect, you are probably creating copyright protected material all the time. Material that is eligible for copyright includes:

  • literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works; 
  • sound recordings; 
  • films; and 
  • communication works.

Your architectural designs will fall under the artistic works category. In most cases, this means that your designs will automatically be covered by copyright protection when you create them. 

Copyright protection gives you the:

  • exclusive right to use and profit from your work;
  • power to determine who else can use and profit from your work; and 
  • right to legal protection

You can use the © symbol to show others that copyright protects your work. Copyright protection for artistic works lasts for your lifetime and 50 years in addition. 

Copyright Ownership

Usually, the creator of the material will be the copyright owner. Therefore, you will usually be the owner of your architectural designs. However, this can become slightly more complicated if you are employed by someone else while doing your work. In this case, your employer will usually become the copyright owner. The details of who owns the copyright to your work should be in your employment agreement, and you should ask your employer if there is any confusion.

As an architect, you may be working for an architecture firm or as a self-employed freelancer. It is a good idea to make sure you know and understand your intellectual property rights in either situation. This will ensure that you know who the copyright owner is. 

Commercialising My Copyright

If you do hold copyright ownership, you have options to commercialise your work through a licence agreement or assignment. 

A licence agreement is a way for you to permit someone else to use your designs. It has no impact on your copyright ownership. You can vary the terms of a licence agreement to suit each situation. For example, if you have clients that would like to use your designs, you can permit them to do so for a fee, and you will retain your copyright ownership.

A licence agreement can be exclusive or non-exclusive. If a licence agreement is exclusive, it means that you are only licensing your work to that person. This means your clients can be sure that you cannot duplicate the space you design for them somewhere else. A non-exclusive licence means that you can profit from that piece of work with multiple clients. 

An assignment is a legally binding agreement where you can transfer ownership of all or part of work to another person. Once you have assigned your copyright, you will no longer have ownership.

Moral Rights

If you decide to assign your work and rights to someone else, you will still retain moral rights. These moral rights are the right:

  • to attribution, which is the right to be identified as the creator of your work;
  • to object to derogatory treatment of your work, which is the right to oppose any harm or alterations to your work that could harm your reputation; and
  • not to have work falsely attributed to you.

For you as an architect, no matter who owns your designs or how widely they are shared, you must be acknowledged as the creator until copyright ends. This is useful for you, because potential clients may see your designs through other means, and moral rights will help them locate you and discuss your work.

Key Takeaways

Your work as an architect will include material that is subject to copyright protection. Therefore, there are several copyright issues you should be aware of. Ensure that you know the owner of the material, whether it is you or your employer. If you do maintain ownership, there are several methods to commercialise your copyright. However, if you do not maintain ownership, you will still have moral rights. If you need further assistance with your copyright, contact LegalVision’s experienced IP lawyers on 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens if I do not mark my work with the © symbol?

Material without the © symbol is still granted the same rights and protections as any other intellectual property. The © symbol is not obligatory.

Can you register copyright?

No, copyright is not a registrable intellectual property tool. It is granted automatically.

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