Am I liable for copyright infringement, if I was lied to?

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Am I liable for copyright infringement, if I was lied to?

I was given a floor plan by a homeowner and was told that she created the original design, then wanted me to modify it. She also told me that she had another builder modify the original design but didn’t like what they came up with, so that is how I was brought into the equation. Now the other builder is stating that I copied his work. If the homeowner told both of us the same requirements, and gave us the same starting point, it is no wonder our plans would look similar, but really it is only the footprint that is the same, and some other lot requirements. My concern is that the homeowner doesn’t own the copyright and possibly gave me the other builder’s work.

Asked on June 27, 2012 under Business Law, Wisconsin

Answers:

MD, Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

You need to check with the builder and with the Federal Copyright office. If the builder's plans are not copyrighted, then really only state copyright law would apply. If you were given a basic floor plan, and you created your own, then it could be considered a derivative work and you need to sit down with the owner and ask to see her previous contract with the builder. If this is a work for hire agreement, she owns the work and he is out of luck and you are free to continue.


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