Dear Mr. Ethics,
We have been contracted to reconstruct a landmark theater that was recently destroyed by fire. The theater was originally designed by a student of Frank Lloyd Wrights who obtained a level of notoriety of their own. The theater owner has found the original plans and has given them to use to use to reconstruct the theater. One of my partners remembers hearing about a lawsuit involving a project architect’s and contractor’s use of someone else’s drawings. Do you know anything about this lawsuit or have any ethical concerns about us proceeding as requested by the owner?
Regards, Plan Shy
This is a familiar situation where ethics and the law converge. It is unethical to use the plans and specifications of another design professional unless there has been provided written permission to do so. Using the designs of another without their permission can also result in a copyright infringement claim. Suits are regularly filed by either the design professional or their heirs over alleged unauthorized use of their plans. You need to find out from the owner if the owner has the written permission of the original architect to use the plans. You should also contact counsel to see if you also should get an indemnification from the owner for any copyright claims that may arise. Ethics and law say you should not use someone else’s documents without knowing if there is permission to do same.
Regards, Mr. Ethics