Interesting question today at the Homebuilding & Renovating show on which I was stumbling over the answer, when up turned Julian Owen, leading figure in ASBA. The questioner had used an architect for planning drawings but wasn’t overly impressed by the service and didn’t want to employ him for the follow-on stage, the detailed drawings, and was looking to appoint someone else. However the architect was acting miffed and said he couldn’t have the drawings because they were copyrighted and he had to employ him for the follow-up stage as well. An impasse had ensued.
Julian reckoned that the architect in question was pulling a fast one. Unless the client had specifically signed a contract with the architect saying that he would employ him to undertake a complete design service, then there was no way he could insist that he should be hired for the rest of the work. As for copyright issues, he thought that was a red herring because there now existed a licence for the client to build the plans as drawn on the site in question (though not, interestingly, on a different site). He suggested that the client had a right to have and to use the plans as drawn, provided he had fulfilled his side of the bargain – i.e. he had paid. This had been proved in case law with paper plans, though not, as far as he knew with electronic CAD drawings, but it’s unlikely that they would be treated any differently.
Thinking about it, the architect’s position was basically untenable because if the relationship had broken down, there is no way the client would want to use his services again and digging his heels in like this would gain the architect nothing more than a reputation for being truculent. He suggested that a way of ending the impasse might be to offer the said architect a small fee, like £50, to pass on the CAD drawings to someone else.