The physical plans remaining in the architect’s possession constitute personal property. Therefore, no other person may take them or use them without the architect’s consent. However, there is no intrinsic property in the architect’s design, if it is not protected by patent or copyright.[i]
The Copyright Act of 1976 17 U.S.C.A. §§ 101 provides that architectural plans and engineering drawings fall within the subject matter of federal copyright law, as “architectural works,” which were expressly made subject to copyright protection.
The Architectural Works Copyright Protection Act, Pub. L. No. 101-650, §§ 701-706, 104 Stat. 5089, 5133-34 (1990) (codified in scattered sections of 17 U.S.C.S.) extended copyright protection to a class of works called “architectural works,” 17 U.S.C.S. § 102(a)(8), which are defined as the design of a building as embodied in any tangible medium of expression, including a building, architectural plans, or drawings. Moreover, the work includes the overall form as well as the arrangement and composition of spaces and elements in the design.[ii]
[i] Mackay v. Benjamin Franklin Realty & Holding Co., 288 Pa. 207 (Pa. 1927)
[ii] T-Peg, Inc. v. Vt. Timber Works, Inc., 459 F.3d 97 (1st Cir. N.H. 2006)