Architectural Work and Copyright Protection


The importance of intellectual property (IP) in today’s economy is growing. IP is a valuable commodity that may be monetized and licensed in the architectural and construction sectors, giving them an advantage in the market. Trademarks, patents, industrial designs, and trade secrets are all examples of intellectual property related to the architectural and construction sectors. The subject of copyrights is the centre of this essay. As with any other copyrighted work, architectural creations are protected under copyright law. 

International Conventions Protecting the Architectural Work

Until the “Berne Convention” of 1908 was amended, architectural works were not provided legal protection or any kind of copyright protection, and it was after this amendment placed in the purview of “literary and artistic” works and got copyright protection at the international level. According to Article 2(1) of the Berne Convention, countries are required to protect works of “architecture,” “three-dimensional works related to architecture,” and “any other works of architecture.” A “work of architecture” is defined under the Berne Convention only as one that is “integrated in a building or other structure,” but the convention does not specify what constitutes a “work of architecture.” The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) adopts expressly the Berne Convention’s requirement for architectural copyright protection without specifying further what defines an architectural work. The Convention of 1886 does not cover architectural works, with the exception of Article 4, which specifies “plans, drawings, and artistic works connected to architecture.”

Protection of Architectural Work under the Indian Scenario: The Copyright Act of 1957

Any original work created by an individual is eligible for copyright protection. Originality refers to the concept that the author must have developed the work using their own imagination and labour. When a work is first produced, it automatically becomes protected by copyright, and no additional steps are needed on the part of the author or owner of the copyright to ensure that they may pursue their legal rights under the Copyright Law in the event that their work is violated. The copyright law in India protects the architectural works under Indian law. Section 13 of the Indian Copyright Act, 1957 lists the many kinds of artistic works that are protected by copyright.  According to the Copyright Act of 1957, a “work of architecture” is defined in Section 2(b) as any building or structure with an artistic character or design, or any model for such a building or structure and Section 2(c) refers to “artistic work,” which includes

  1. A painting, sculpture, drawing (which includes a diagram, map, chart or blueprint), an engraving, or a picture; 
  2. an architectural design; and
  3. A piece of creative workmanship of any kind.

The Copyright registration procedure in India allows architects to protect their original creations. In addition, India is a member to the Berne Convention and the Universal Copyright Convention, which means that works protected in other Berne signatory nations are automatically protected in India.  Architecture may be summed up as the “art of designing and constructing structures,” and as such, it has both artistic and functional qualities. As a result, the moral rights of the author of the creative work are taken into account under Section 57 of the Indian Copyright Act, together with the author’s rights to integrity and acknowledgment. The Act also sets a few limitations on the types of legal recourse that are possible for architectural works. A building or structure that has already been completed or is currently being constructed cannot be infringed upon, according to Section 59 of the Copyright Act. The possible options for redressal here include legal action for damages or criminal charges. Section 52 of the Copyright Act, which establishes the notion of “fair use,” also places limitations on an author’s exclusive right to create architectural works. The use of previous works for inspiration to create new works with any additions, revisions, and improvements is not prohibited under copyright law. In particular, Sections 52(s) and 52(u) declare that an act is not an infringement when:

  • Any individual who creates, publishes, or exhibits an architectural work in the form of a painting, picture, drawing, or engraving. This is known as Freedom of Panorama.


  • A cinematograph film includes a piece of architecture that is located in a public area or premise to which the general public has access.

While other legislations, such as American and European copyright regimes, do not allow the aforesaid defence if the usage is commercial in character, the Indian Copyright Act, 1957 does not include such a restriction.  “Works of architecture,” like other creative works, are protected under this statute for the period of the author’s life plus 60 years. Thus, the Indian copyright law has expanded its purview to include protection for commercial building architecture.

Protection of Architectural Work under the Indian Scenario: The Designs Act of 2000

Section 2(d) of the Designs Act of 2000 governs the registration of architectural work, which may be protected under classes 25-03 and 25-99. In terms of a lack of originality, the standards for protection under the Designs Act are quite comparable to those under the Copyrights Act, although in contrast to the latter, one must have your work compulsorily registered under the Designs Act in order to profit from their labour. Furthermore, if a design is copied more than 50 times using any method, a person loses rights to protection under copyright law as per section 15 of the Copyright Act and is left with just the Designs Act as a choice. In the case of Microfibres Inc. v. Girdhar & Co. & Anr., the court made it clear that if a person registers a design under the Designs Act, they forfeit their copyright protection; however, if they do not yet register the design under the Designs Act, they retain their copyright protection as long as the industrial limit of more than 50 reproductions is not exceeded.


As a result, there is a lack of knowledge and discussion around the topic of protecting architectural masterpieces. Architects and designers are often ill-equipped to safeguard and enforce intellectual property rights in their work. However, the Berne Convention’s conditions for copyright protection for architectural works have now been met by most nations, including India. Further, copyright law does not protect the fundamental usage of spaces such as windows and doors, which are fundamental to any building’s construction. In this situation, the ruling of the Indian Courts and the harmonious structure of the Copyright Act and the Design Act have served as a balancing beam to address the problem.

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