In the last blog, Jamie White of Pod Legal shared his legal insight into copyright, and how it affects the design of homes and buildings. It’s worthwhile reading if you’ve found a plan online that you want to turn into your home.
In this blog, Jamie talks about Moral Rights – another component of designed work – and I share my own professional experience in this area.
What are Moral Rights? by Jamie White, Pod Legal
It is important to know that creators of original works have other rights in addition to copyright.
Specifically, a creator automatically has the moral rights:
- to be attributed for his or her work;
- not to have his or her work falsely attributed; and
- not to have his or her work treated in a derogatory way.
Therefore, even if a copyright work, a floor plan for example, is used without infringing copyright, it is important that the author of the work is credited for his or her work. Failure to do so could also land you in hot water.
An exception to this rule is if the author of the work waives his or her moral rights.
Moral Rights in action – from Undercover Architect …
This applies when you’re renovating an architecturally designed home
This one can be a tricky one for homeowners to understand. The upshot of it is that, if you own a home that you know is architecturally designed, and you want to renovate it, you (or your designer) are supposed to speak to the original architect before you do.
I recently did a Reno Rescue package for a client who had bought a home designed by a very well-renowned Brisbane architect. The project was built around 16 years ago. However, before I started designing anything, I contacted the architect to advise him, and ask what protocol he’d like to follow.
Under his Moral Rights, he can ask to review the drawings I produce, and get involved in the design work to protect his original creation. He also has the right to attribution (his name being associated with the ongoing work). I knew that. He knew that.
He thanked me for calling him, and observing his rights – and then said “it’s a great home, don’t stuff it up”.
Generally, designers will be reasonable human beings who know their legal rights, but also know the time implications of staying involved, and the challenge that poses for them and the homeowner.
However, it protects you and your designer when you follow legal protocol.
Building their signature
It may seem strange to you to have to deal with any of this. Whether you’re the homeowner, footing the bill and living in the finished home, or if you’ve bought a home that someone else had designed.
However, the design itself, and the finished product created by the designer (your home) are the reputation of the designer. It’s often where designers get more work from, and it’s what tells the world about their abilities, experience and style.
And chances are, if you’re looking for a designer, you’ll review their finished examples of work to see if their style is to your taste, and what your seeking for your home.
It’s a whoppingly permanent business card.
So if it gets changed in a way that is not reflective of their abilities, experience or style – and can still be traced back to them – then it impacts their reputation.
Moral rights protects the designer’s ability keep their name attached to a project – or choose to have it removed if they believe it to be detrimental to their reputation.
The starchitect effect brings dollars
Often, too, the names of certain designers can add real estate value to a project – so the notion of false attribution is important.
There are cases of developers getting big name architects on projects in the early stages to leverage them to secure approvals, publicity for their development, buyers interested, build the buzz. And then they’ll terminate the architect once design is done, pay a cheaper firm to document the work and get it built.
One very renowned residential architect I know will only work on projects where they’re commissioned for the whole process – from design through to completing construction.
This enables them to control the outcome, then manage the delivery of the project and ensure it is in keeping with the design vision originally established.
Consequently, their finished projects build up a portfolio of well-controlled and well-executed examples of their work. As they win awards, and their name gains reputation, clients seek out their services to get that type of work. And have the status that can come with having a home designed by this architect.
So when a client terminates their services after design work is complete, with the intention to take it to a less expensive draftsperson to finish off the project, they can expect to receive a legal letter.
Preventing their work being morphed into other built outcomes is an important way to protect their design reputation, status associated with their work, and other clients’ investments.
Moral rights always applies to the individual
When Mirvac Design employed us, we were asked to sign paperwork waiving our Moral Rights, so as individuals we wouldn’t need to be consulted or attributed in projects the company built.
As the great Frank Lloyd Wright said …
A doctor can bury his mistakes but an architect can only advise his clients to plant vines.
The homes we build are permanent structures, and very visible evidence of the reputation of those who’ve helped make them happen.
Protecting the design – and designer – in that process is an important part of protecting the value of the design in your home. Given the investment made to create your home (whether you paid for it directly, or inherently bought it from the previous owner), that value is something you are most likely keen to hang on to.
Moral Rights observe an important professional respect and regard for the value of other professionals’ work. If you think about the work you do, and how you value the contribution you make – I think you’d agree you’d request the same respect and regard towards it.
PS: the architectural code of contact also covers an architect’s obligations here …
Sometimes you take unfinished design work to another designer. Whatever the reason, be sure you cover yourself when commencing work with another designer.
I’ve had a client who terminated their work with another architect, and brought their design to me to continue their project. So I contacted the previous architect, and we agreed that when I created my version of the design, I would send it to them to see if they required shared attribution or continued involvement.
Once I had finished the Concept Design and the client had signed it off, I sent it through. The original architect provided feedback that they no longer needed to be involved or receive any attribution for the work. I didn’t take it personally (he he).
The Architectural Code of Conduct requires architects to do this as a matter of course. If we know another architect has prepared the initial design that is their basis for continuing work, then we have a responsibility to notify the previous architect.
A big thank you to Jamie for providing such useful info about copyright and moral rights. You can contact Jamie here:
Jamie White – Pod Legal | Website: CLICK HERE