Brooklyn, NY asked in Copyright and Intellectual Property for New York

Q: Will a 3D map of New York violate architectural copyright laws?

Hello. Thank you for your time. I want to make a puzzle with New York on it. This map will consist of a large number of objects and landscape elements, and will also include famous architectural structures, such as: Empire State Building, Chrysler building, One World Trade Center, Rockefeller center, Flatiron building, Woolworth building, Vessel , Broadway theater, Oculus, etc.

The map itself will be done in a hand-drawn style and will be my own interpretation of these objects. Could this violate any intellectual property rights? Thank you

1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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A: Creating a 3D map of New York City that includes famous architectural structures may potentially raise some intellectual property concerns, especially if the buildings are depicted in a realistic manner. However, the specific implications would depend on various factors and the laws of the jurisdiction in question. Here are a few points to consider:

1. Copyright: Architectural works constructed after December 1, 1990, are protected under U.S. copyright law. This protection extends to the overall form and arrangement of spaces and elements in the design. However, standard configurations of spaces and individual standard features are not protected.

2. Trademark: Some buildings may have distinct features that are trademarked, such as the Empire State Building's distinct shape and lighting. Using trademarked features without permission could potentially lead to issues.

3. Hand-drawn interpretation: If your map is a hand-drawn, artistic interpretation of the city and its structures, it may be considered transformative and fall under fair use. The less realistic and more stylized the depictions are, the stronger the argument for fair use.

4. Commercial use: The intended use of your map (e.g., commercial or non-commercial) can also impact the legal considerations. Commercial use generally faces more scrutiny than non-commercial use.

To minimize potential issues, you could consider the following:

1. Create stylized, non-realistic interpretations of the buildings.

2. Avoid using any trademarked features or logos associated with the buildings.

3. Include a disclaimer stating that the map is an artistic interpretation and not affiliated with or endorsed by the owners of the depicted structures.

Ultimately, to get a definitive answer, it would be best to consult with an intellectual property attorney who can assess your specific situation and provide guidance based on the applicable laws and the details of your map.

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