In the recent decision of Sparaco v. LMS
, the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals dealt with the issue of the existence of copyright in a construction site plan. The plaintiff was retained to prepare a site plan for a proposed assisted living facility. According to the Court, a "site plan is a development plan for a plot of land. It specifies existing land conditions, including topography, boundaries, and physical structures, and can also specify the proposed improvements to the site." In this case, the prepared site plan included renderings of the existing physical characteristics of the site and proposed physical improvements to the site. The developers of the property then went on to copy much of the prepared site plan in the preparation of an amended plan without the plaintiff's participation. The plaintiff commenced proceedings claiming, amongst others, for breach of copyright in the preparation of the amended plan.
The Court of Appeals applied the reasoning of the U.S. Supreme Court in Feist Publications, Inc. v. Rural Telephone Service Company
, 499 U.S. 340, that the author's labor or "sweat of the brow" was insufficient to justify copyright protection of factual information set forth in a work. The existing physical characteristics were facts, and copyright does not bar the copying of such facts by a third party. Concerning the original plan's expression of proposed physical improvements to the site, the court found that these were sufficiently concrete or detailed to constitute protected expression and not too vague or abstract as a mere idea. It didn't matter that the technical drawings of the plan were not sufficiently complete and detailed to support actual construction.
Accordingly, the Court ruled for the plaintiff relating to copying of the site plan's specifications for site improvement.
For a copy of the decision, visit:
Concerned about your company's intellectual property? Contact Victor Butsky
of DWW: firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclaimer: This Newsletter is intended to provide readers with general information on legal developments in the areas of e-commerce, information technology and intellectual property. It is not intended to be a complete statement of the law, nor is it intended to provide legal advice. No person should act or rely upon the information contained in this newsletter without seeking legal advice.
E-TIPS is a registered trade-mark of Deeth Williams Wall LLP.