Among A&E firms that produce CAD drawings, it is common practice to maintain ownership of the drawings they create. In theory, this ownership is predicated on well-established contract and copyright law. In practice, however, it can be difficult and expensive to enforce.
But earlier this month, a US federal court in Florida made a noteworthy ruling. It provides a new angle of attack for copyright owners going after infringers in court. So, if you're a consumer of drawing files created by others, you should be aware of the implications:
The dispute is about a company that replaced the original company name and other information on the title block of drawings. These design drawings were created by the plaintiff, in this case. Now, the Digital Milennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in the USA prohibits third parties from removing or modifying "copyright management information." Traditionally this was thought to apply only to the metadata associated with content that is distributed electronically (e.g. over the Internet) -- not to printed output.
Here the court determined that information included on drawing title blocks intended for printed output is under the law a "copyright management information." It therefore is protected from removal or modification.
If you want to look it up, the case is Roof & Rack Products, Inc. v. GYB Investors, LLC, 2014 WL 3183278 (S.D. Fla. July 8, 2014). See http://blog.internetcases.com/2014/07/15/dmcas-protection-of-copyright-man agement-information-applied-to-non-electronic-works.
Coincidentally while I was writing this post, one of my favorite IP law bloggers posted a list of textbooks he is considering for a future "Intellectual Property for Engineers" course.
If you're interested in IP law resources applicable to design and engineering (or if you just need some good bedtime reading), check out this list by professor Eric Goldman: http://blog.ericgoldman.org/archives/2014/07/textbooks-for-an-intellectu al-property-for-engineers-course.htm.
[Owen Wengerd writes about AutoCAD programming at his blog, Outside the Box. More about Mr Wengerd at http://otb.manusoft.com/about ]