Real Estate Agent Magazine Law and Ethics Federal Court Rules Floor Plans Covered by ‘Fair Use’

Federal Court Rules Floor Plans Covered by ‘Fair Use’

U.S. district court ruling protects an established marketing strategy used to sell homes.

Real estate professionals may continue using floor plan drawings when marketing listings, according to a federal court ruling. This represents an important victory for the real estate industry which relies heavily on two-dimensional renderings to give potential buyers an idea of a home’s layout.

Beginning in 2019, real estate agents were accused of violating copyright laws when using floor plan drawings to market real estate listings. A lawsuit filed with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri claimed this practice breached “fair use” rules; however, according to this decision by their ruling it did not infringe upon architectural design copyright laws.

“Consumers want more information when beginning their property search,” according to Brian Toohey, CEO of Columbia Board of REALTORS(r) in Columbia, Missouri. Toohey says many of his members had become wary about using floor plan drawings due to lawsuits but now can include them without fear of legal ramifications, according to Toohey.

NAR Joins Coalition to Assert Importance
Real estate groups joined together in 2022 to challenge the merits of lawsuits filed against them–even appealing directly to the Supreme Court itself! Clear Capital, CoreLogic, Zillow Group and the American Property Owners Alliance all filed an amicus brief requesting they weigh in. The National Association of REALTORS(r) joined 17 other organizations including Clear Capital, CoreLogic, Zillow Group and American Property Owners Alliance that submitted amicus briefs.

The groups noted that home buyers rely on floor plans in real estate listings to determine whether to purchase a residence, and their ability to secure financing often hinges on an appraisal that requires creating floor plans. Therefore, using independent renderings without fear of copyright infringement is critical for REALTORS(r), homeowners and appraisers when conducting appraisals, renovations and home sales transactions, the groups suggested.

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