In October 2009, I spoke to a group of lawyers at a construction law seminar on issues surrounding architectural copyrights. At the end of the presentation we discussed some of the common myths regarding copyrights. It is amazing how frequently law suits are the result of an unwitting infringer’s reliance on one or more of these myths. Here is a partial list of some common copyright myths. When in doubt, it is always better to consult with a legal professional experienced in copyright law.
Copyright Myths
There is no copyright infringement if the plans or design are changed by 10 or 20 percent.
If there is no copyright notice, a work is not protected.
The copyright covers the plans, not the building.
The client owns the copyright if s/he pays for the work.
Only novel or unique plans and buildings are protectable.
If you do not know of the copyright, you are not liable for infringement.
Copyright liability is limited to the cost of the plans.
If it is been anonymously published on the internet, it is in the public domain.
Postings on social network sites (e.g., Facebook) or message boards are “fair use.”
If the owner emails you a copy, you can post it on the internet.
If you give credit to the author, you do not need permission to use his/her work.
If a book is out of print, it is in the public domain.
Using something for nonprofit educational purposes is automatically “fair use.” (factually dependent)
A work must be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office to obtain copyrights.
If you don’t charge for the work, it is not a copyright violation.
If you only use a small portion of a work, it is not copyright infringement. (factually dependent)
If the author does not enforce the copyright, s/he loses it.
You can copyright or patent a name.
Below is a photograph of me presenting at the Construction Law Seminar, which was organized by the Construction Law Section of the Utah State Bar. The photograph was taken by Connie Howard using a cell phone camera

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