April 24, 2019

Your Blueprint to a Copyright Application for Architectural Works

2 min

The U.S. Copyright Office has revised the registration process for architectural works, amending the rule laid out in 37 CFR § 202.11. In promoting the new rule, the Copyright Office claims it will "improve the efficiency of the registration process, and encourage broader participation in the registration system." In the past, the regulations mandated paper applications and physical copies of blueprints and photographs for the deposit material. The Office recognized that this was a burdensome and sometimes inconvenient practice and began accepting online applications for architectural works in 2008, and has now updated the regulations to require an electronic application and allow that deposit materials be submitted online rather than depositing physical copies of the work.

As for the deposit material, the Copyright Office will accept depictions of the work in any form, as long as the examiners are able to "access, perceive, and examine" the architectural work as a whole. The new rule eliminates the "preferred drawing/photograph submissions" language and allows for any electronic submission that shows the entirety of the copyrightable aspects of a work. Note, however, that a digital copy does not satisfy the mandatory deposit requirement for published works. As before, architects must still submit a physical copy of the "best edition" of the work within three months of its publication.

The new rule also clarifies the date of construction requirement, stating that the date is necessary only if the "work was embodied in unpublished plans or drawings on or before December 1, 1990 and if the building was constructed before January 1, 2003." For any works created outside this scope, the date of construction is not required, and if the building has not been built, a statement indicating that is sufficient.

The final rule will become effective on May 23, 2019. If any paper applications are submitted after this date, the Copyright Office will refuse the registration. Paper applications will be accepted only for "exceptional" circumstances, such as not having access to a computer or the internet.