Real Estate Agent Magazine Law and Ethics 3 Strategies to Prevent Copyright Claims When Utilizing Floorplans

3 Strategies to Prevent Copyright Claims When Utilizing Floorplans

Floorplans in real estate marketing have come under scrutiny recently; here are some best practices.

Utilising floorplans in marketing of real estate listings remains legally unclear. An appeals court is currently assessing whether this widespread practice violates the floorplan designer’s copyright; while last fall a U.S. district court found that such use fell within “fair use.”

Real estate professionals have long utilized two-dimensional floorplans in their marketing, and approximately half of homebuyers view such illustrations as being “valuable” when shopping online for properties, according to the National Association of REALTORS(r) 2023 Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends report.

Designworks Home Designs has taken legal action against the real estate industry over the last six years, alleging they own all home design and technical drawings relating to them and that any unauthorized representation violates copyright laws. Recently, Designworks appealed the district court decision and is asking the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals for assistance.

Chloe Hecht, senior counsel of the National Association of REALTORS(r), notes in NAR’s latest “Window to the Law” video that courts across the country are divided on whether floorplans infringe upon copyrighted home designs. She advocates for an acceptable national standard allowing real estate professionals to use floorplans without risking copyright infringement claims when marketing listed properties with floorplans.

Hecht advises real estate pros using floorplans as part of their marketing to follow these best practices:

Before marketing the home, obtain permission from its owner and document that you have created a floorplan with their approval. Be sure to limit this plan solely to conveying its interior layout; avoid including architectural drawings or technical plans as part of property listings.
Discovering that a listed home includes copyrighted designs is essential if you want to market and sell it successfully. Before creating and using any floorplan for marketing purposes, seek permission from its creator first.

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