A recent decision from a Pennsylvania federal court underscores that there is generally no copyright protection in an actual building or a skyline of buildings; instead, the protection is in the particular photograph or rendering of the building.
Creating an original depiction of a building or skyline that is not substantially similar to the photograph or rendering may provide protection from liability for copyright infringement. Other federal courts, however, have held that actual use of a pre-existing photograph of a skyline of buildings, or a portion of such a photograph, without the copyright owner’s authorization, may constitute copyright infringement.
Although this alert will discuss copyright issues implicated by use of a photograph of a building or skyline, please note that building owners have also argued that the façade or other distinctive aspect of their building may qualify for trademark protection such that the unauthorized depiction of the building in advertising materials may constitute trademark infringement. This Alert focuses not on potential trademark protection for buildings but, rather, the potential for photographers or artists to seek copyright protection for their photographs or other renderings of a building or buildings together in a skyline. Continue Reading