News

Can a drawing of the Orion building infringe copyright?

Published on
January 11, 2021

The Copyright Information Point (CIP) receives many interesting questions that could easily be on an exam about Dutch Copyright Law. In the current and coming WUR Library Newsletters, we will highlight some questions, because these questions are too interesting to keep to ourselves. Today's question is about a drawing of the Orion building.

The question

Simply put, the question was: I made some drawings of the exterior of WUR buildings (e.g. Orion), which I would like to sell to family, friends and other people that might be interested. Is this allowed? The drawing was sent to the CIP as an example and is shown on the right to give you an idea of what we're talking about.

The CIP's answer

According to Article 1 of the Dutch Copyright Act: “Copyright is the exclusive right of the author of a literary, scientific or artistic work or his successors in title to disclose the work to the public and to reproduce it, subject to the exceptions laid down by law”. In other words, the author has the right to express, publish, display, distribute and copy his or her own work.

For this case, we first need to determine if the architectural design of the Orion building on-campus is a work, since only works can be copyright protected. To be a work, the work needs to be original, in the sense that it should be the author’s own intellectual creation, and the work needs to be expressed. The design of the Orion building is both original, and because it is finished and visible to the world, it is expressed. Therefore, we can consider the design of the Orion building to be copyright protected. Since making a drawing from the building is a form of reproduction to which the copyright owner is exclusively entitled, this means that permission of the copyright owner is needed before you can sell a drawing of the Orion building, unless there is an exception laid down by law or when you have permission of the copyright owner.

In this case, the exception is found in article 18 of the Dutch Copyright Act. This article allows people to make reproductions, such as drawings or photographs of buildings or sculptures that are intended to be permanently situated in the public space. The rationale for this exception is that buildings and sculptures in public areas are, to some extent, part of the public environment and can be perceived by anyone. This allows for a certain public freedom for the use of such works, e.g., in a travel guide, architectural guide or postcards. In this case, the Orion building is intended to be more or less permanently situated in a public space and therefore, it is allowed to make a drawing of the building and to sell this drawing.

If you have any question about copyright law, please feel free to send it to copyright@wur.nl. Don't worry! We will only write about your question with your permission.