Architects, Copyright and Real Estate Listings

Each year billions of dollars changes hands as part of the residential property market. An important part of the property business is advertising houses for rent and sale, known as real estate or property listings. Property listings are one of the most visible parts of the property industry and represent big business.

Recently, it was brought to our attention that a property we had designed was for sale. It’s unusual for CplusC clients to sell their projects, and the highly trafficked listing should have been a great way to market our design and practice. The photographs were striking and the write up was rather flattering:

“architecturally crafted to deliver a chic inner city lifestyle. Its beautifully articulated layout unfolds into a unique and highly functional space flanked by private gardens with sunlit entertainment areas…. Bespoke designer details, superb bathrooms and refined Art Deco details are just some of the many highlights. Pitched ceilings, cross ventilation, solar panels and a rainwater tank focus on sustainability … A self-sustaining elongated fishpond is a final exquisite touch that echoes the key design features of the property.”

There’s just one problem – we weren’t attributed in any way. The agent clearly recognised the thinking and skill that was involved in creating the house and presumably believed that highlighting the bespoke designer nature of the project would add value to the property. But they didn’t acknowledge who had been involved in creating the space. Lack of attribution in real estate listings is relatively common for architects and an ongoing issue for the profession. It’s also a breach of the Copyright Act.

Under the Copyright Act, you have certain rights including the right to be attributed as the author of the creative work. While we were able to find some existing material for use in similar situations for other creative industries (in particular from the Arts Law Centre), we weren’t able to find any architecture specific resources for use in this situation. We prepared our own letter to the real estate agent which outlined our rights under the Copyright Act, information on where and when the breach had occurred and set out our demands (in this case, amending the listing to attribute us).

Shortly after we sent the letter, the listing was updated to properly attribute “award winning Clinton Cole of CplusC Architectural Workshop”. (The adjectives were a bonus they threw in).

As a result of our experience and because we had such a positive outcome to our letter, we’re including it as a sample for others in the Australian Architecture industry to reference. While you may find the attached document useful, we recommend you seek independent legal advice if you believe that your copyright or moral rights have been breached or you are seeking specific relief.