Netupsky et al. v. Dominion Bridge Co. Ltd., [1972] SCR 368

Boris Netupsky, an engineer who been contracted to provide plans for the structural design of the Ottawa Civic Centre, objected when his plans were modified by the steel fabricator assigned to the job with the aim of saving costs.

Although it was undisputed that the building in question was based on Netupsky’s plans, and that these plans had been modified without his permission, the Supreme Court of Canada ultimately found that the contract between Netupsky and the architect for the project overrode any copyright claim which he might have had:

“In the circumstances, it was clear that the changes or modifications not only were not forbidden but were in contemplation at the time when the City of Ottawa and, through it, the respondent, its subcontractor, became the licensee of N for the construction of its civic centre. Such a licence carried with it an implied consent to make the changes which N should have made and refused to make, and also, an implied consent to reproduce the plans in as many copies as might be necessary for the construction of the work.”

This decision goes to show that while structural and architectural plans can be the subject of copyright protection, a contract or implied contract transferring the rights to such plans will protect the purchaser from a copyright infringement claim if a disagreement arises at some point during the construction process.

Decided by the Supreme Court of Canada on October 5, 1971.
Click here for the full text of the decision.

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