Frequently Asked Questions on the Request for Reproduction of Copyrighted Materials
The City of King City maintains a record of approved architectural drawings for reference. The architectural drawings are available for review; however, copyright law protects the duplication of these drawings without the owner’s consent.
Q: What is a copyright?
A: A copyright is the exclusive right of the copyright holder to copy, reproduce, or make derivative works of their copyrighted material, such as architectural plans and drawings.
Q: Why is the City treating architectural works (plans and drawings) differently than other types of documentation?
A: While many types of work may be eligible for copyright protection, architectural works are given specific protection under U.S. Copyright law. (An architectural work is “the design of a building as embodied in any tangible medium of expression, including a building, architectural plans or drawings. The work includes the overall form as well as the arrangement and composition of spaces and elements in the design, but does not include individual standard features.”)
Q: Why is the City saying architectural plans are copyrighted if I don't see the © symbol on it?
A: There are a few reasons. On and after March 1, 1989, it was no longer necessary for copyright holders to place the symbol on a work for it to have copyright protection. Also, architectural works are given specific protection under U.S. Copyright law.
Q: Doesn't Oregon Public Records Law mean the City has to give copies to the public?
A: No. Federal copyright law supersedes Oregon Public Records law. Requestors still do have the right to view copyrighted material under the Public Records law, but may not make copies of the material without the copyright owner’s consent.
Q: Who is the "owner" of a copyright?
A: The “owner” is the party that holds the copyright and has the exclusive right to allow copies of the work. For architectural works such as plans and drawings, this may be either the architectural firm that drew the plans, or the party that hired the architectural firm as “work for hire,” such as a builder or individual homeowner.
Q: How can a customer determine who holds the copyright on plans or drawings?
A: The customer may view the plans/drawings and investigate who owns the plans/drawings by contacting the architect or owner represented on the plans. The City accepts that the customer has done their due diligence in investigating ownership and obtaining the proper release or making a determination that their use qualifies as “fair use.”
Q: How do I know if I'm qualified to copy under fair use?
A: This is not an easy question to answer, but in general, it is acceptable to copy if it is for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research. It is also generally acceptable to copy small portions of a plan for limited, non-commercial use, such as a copy of a particular section in order to locate electrical or a support wall etc. It is not acceptable to copy a full set of plans or drawings to avoid having to pay the owner for copies of those plans. It is not fair use if the purpose is to gain commercial advantage.
Q: Are site plans copyrighted?
Q: Can someone get a copy of plans or drawings for a replacement set, for deferred submittal or revisions without a copyright release or permission letter from the copyright owner?
A: No. They need a release or permission letter signed by the copyright owner.
Q: What do we do with the copyright release or permission letter?
A: Give the signed release or permission letter to the City Attorney along with the Request for Reproduction of Copyrighted Materials and Public Records Request forms.
Q: What if the owner of the plans is deceased or unavailable to fill out this form?
A: Copyright exists for the life of the owner plus 70 years, so death does not automatically extinguish copyright.
Q: Who can answer questions about this procedure?
A: Staff in the City Attorney’s office.