Just like books, movies and songs, home plans receive protection under the federal copyright laws. The copyright laws prevent anyone, other than the copyright owner, from reproducing, modifying or reusing the plans or designs without written permission of the copyright owner.
It is a common misunderstanding that making changes to or redrawing a plan found in a plan book is permissible. It is not. The right to modify plans is one of the exclusive rights of copyright. It is also illegal to copy or redraw a constructed home that is protected by copyright, even if you have never seen the plans for the home. If you find a plan that you like, you must purchase a set of plans from an authorized source.
The original purchaser of a house plan is typically licensed to build a single home from the plans. Building more than one home from the plans without permission is an infringement of the home designer's copyright and, unless otherwise specified, you should assume that construction sets typically include 5 to 8 (hard copy) sets. The purchase of a multiple set plan package is for the construction of a single home only and the purchase of any additional plan sets do not give you the right to construct more than one home, unless otherwise stated on our site. However, we do offer some plans which include either the PDF or CAD file unlimited use package which does allow for building the plan more than once. Also, some designers may have a re-use fee for their plans; you will need to contact our office in order for us to determine if one is available for a specific plan and what that dollar amount may be as these vary per designer and plan.
Plans, blueprints or blacklines cannot be copied or reproduced without the prior written consent of the copyright owner. If additional sets are required for estimating or construction, please contact the home designer for additional sets at a nominal cost. Copy shops and blueprinters are prohibited from making copies of these plans. The PDFs come with a license agreement that will allow for you to make copies.
Plans cannot be modified or redrawn without first obtaining the copyright owner's permission. With your purchase of plans, you are licensed to make non-structural changes by "red-lining" the purchased plans. If you need to make structural changes or need to redraw the plans for any reason, you must purchase a reproducible set of plans (see topic 6) which includes a license to modify plans. Blueprints do not come with a license to make structural changes or to redraw the plans. You may not reuse or sell the modified design.
Reproducible plans (for example PDFs, CAD files and vellums) come with a license to make modifications to the plans. Once modified, the plans can be taken to a local copy shop or blueprinter to make copies of the plans to use in the construction of a single home. Only one home can be constructed from any single purchased set of reproducible plans either in original form or as modified unless otherwise stated on our website.
Even if you are licensed to make modifications to a copyrighted design, the modified design is not free from the original designer's copyright. The sale or reuse of the modified design is prohibited. Also, be aware that any modification to plans relieves the designer from liability for design defects and voids all warranties expressed or implied.
Any party who participates in a copyright violation may be responsible, including the purchaser, designers, architects, engineers, drafters, homeowners, builders, contractors, sub-contractors, copy shops, blueprinters, developers and real estate agencies. It does not matter whether or not the individual knows that a violation is being committed. You've heard it before: Ignorance of the law is not a valid defense! Refuse to be a party to any illicit copying or use of designs, derivative works, prints, design features or homes.
In the event of any suspected violation of a copyright, or if there is any uncertainty about the plans purchased, the publisher, architect, designer or House Plan Marketing Association should be contacted before proceeding. Awards are sometimes offered for information about home design copyright infringement.
Penalties for violating a copyright may be very severe. The responsible parties are required to pay actual damages caused by the infringement (which may be substantial), plus any profits made by the infringer commissions to include all profits and from the sale of any home built from an infringing design. The copyright law also allows for the recovery of statutory damages, which may be as high as $150,000 for each infringement. Finally, the infringer may be required to pay legal fees, which often exceed the damages.