April 12, 2024
3 Tips to Avoid Copyright Claims When Using Floorplans
3 Tips to Avoid Copyright Claims When Using Floorplans

Using floorplans in the marketing of real estate listings remains legally murky. An appeals court is weighing whether this common practice violates the floorplan designer’s copyright. A U.S. district court ruled last fall that floorplans fall under “fair use.”

Real estate professionals have long favored using two-dimensional floorplans in their marketing, and about half of home buyers say the renderings are “valuable” when shopping for properties online, according to the National Association of REALTORS®’ 2023 Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends report.

Over the last six years, home design company Designworks has taken the real estate industry to court, arguing it owns the home design and technical drawings and that any unauthorized representation of them violates copyright laws. Designworks recently appealed the district court decision and is now asking the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals to weigh in.

“Courts across the country are not in agreement about whether floorplans infringe on copyrighted home designs,” Chloe Hecht, senior counsel for the National Association of REALTORS®, says in the association’s latest “Window to the Law” video. “NAR will continue to advocate for a consistent nationwide standard allowing real estate professionals to use floorplans to market listed properties without risking copyright infringement claims.”

But in the meantime, Hecht stresses that real estate pros should heed the following best practices when using floorplans in their marketing:

  • Obtain and document that you have the property owner’s permission to create a floorplan when marketing the home.
  • Make sure the floorplan only conveys the home’s interior layout. Do not include architectural drawings or technical plans of the home in the property listings.
  • Gain extra permissions if you learn that a listed home includes a copyrighted design. Obtain the copyright owner’s written permission before creating and using a floorplan when marketing the home.