Know your Rights – Architects, Photography and Copyright law

The architectural field’s representation online is primarily through photo heavy industry websites. It is much easier and more efficient for a reader to visit a single site that updates them with a range of news specifically customised to their interests than visit multiple sites again and again. For this reason, architects are required to have lot of trust in these platforms to portray their work and their firm appropriately. The majority of blogs, websites and networking platforms do follow correct procedure for attributing architectural work and create platforms which are vital for educating both people inside and outside the industry. However, some forums continue to ignore the rights of architects when posting photographs.

The definition of the word ‘post’ has evolved in its most literal sense from something physical to the metaphorical through web pages that live stream and update at a rate like no other. The sheer speed of information is getting exponentially faster and with that comes many dangers. A post that is incorrect, mis-interpretable or in some cases misleading can’t simply be fixed a few weeks after it has gone live. By that time, it may have reached countless impressionable readers, most of them one-time readers that no matter how interesting the post may be will never revisit that exact post.

Australian copyright laws protect a variety of intellectual property, including architecture, architectural photography, architectural products and more.  Recent amendments to the original 1968 law have clarified both the application of the laws to architectural works and elaborated on a creator’s moral rights.

I would question if these laws are still effective in the age of ‘posting’. These days, a typical copyright breach procedure would go as follows: a blogger writes an article about architecture, grabs a photo from a website (or more rarely, posts their own photo) and doesn’t credit the architect. The architect presumably never discovers the blog and no action is taken. In the rare cases where the architect does find out about the blog and issues a notice requesting action (typically attribution, payment of a licensing fee, removal of the image or a combination of all three), the majority of the readers would have already read the blog and the impact of any action is nominal.

Moreover the issue of permission comes into play. Architects tend to market themselves in certain ways, an established architectural firm typically has a comprehensive marketing strategy that its platforms would follow to a T. Yet these third party posts may completely miss the targets and subsequently mislead the reader. The problem is many architects don’t know their rights or lack the time and resources to assert them. Thus a culture is created that ignores creative property and integrity. Therefore, both Architects and bloggers alike should know their rights and obligations when posting online. The Copyright Act 1968 as amended gives architects (and other creators) certain rights, including:

  • The right to publish and communicate the Work to the public;
  • The right to be attributed as creator of the Work; and
  • The right to give permission for the publication of the work.

Remember, once a work or photo is posted on certain social platforms, including Facebook and Instagram, the owner can lose or transfer their rights under the terms and conditions of the platform.

This blog is only indicative of the Australian Copyright Act, a Short Guide to Copyright can be found at:

https://www.ag.gov.au/RightsAndProtections/Documents/ShortGuidetoCopyright-October2012.pdf