Copyright in construction contracts
Copyright in construction contracts

The following Construction practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Copyright in construction contracts
  • Copyright in designs
  • Copyright in buildings
  • Copyright clauses
  • Example copyright clause
  • Assignment of copyright
  • Moral Rights
  • Planning applications

The question of who owns intellectual property in the designs, drawings, specifications etc created in relation to a construction project is very important for all the parties involved. The party who owns the copyright in the designs produced will want to protect their rights in them and restrict the ways and extent to which they can be used by others, and have rights of recourse where these rights are infringed. Those who need to reproduce or use the designs will want to make sure they have adequate rights to allow them to do so.

In relation to construction projects, designs are created by the architect, civil and M&E engineers (sometimes also by other specialist engineers and designers), and can also be created by the contractor himself and his sub-contractors.

Clauses dealing with the ownership of copyright are therefore standard in professional appointments, building contracts, and collateral warranties. This Practice Note focuses on such clauses in construction contracts. See also Practice Note: Copyright in a consultant's appointment.

Copyright in designs

Copyright arises automatically in any original artistic work—the author does not have to register its rights or apply for this protection. The definition of artistic work set out in the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA) includes any painting, drawing, diagram, map, chart or plan.

The statutory position, set out in the CDPA, is that the copyright

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