Kyle R. Moore


Westlawn Gardens, the multi-million, multi-phase redevelopment, is nearing completion. As it stands, the LEED award winning development is the largest public housing neighborhood in Wisconsin. But what if a commercial company or individual tried to recreate that development; would the original architect’s work be protected under copyright law?

Copyright law has provided no answers and the law typically protects the architect, but when federal dollars are handed down to independent agencies the ownership line is blurred. 17 United States Code Section 105, states that “copyright protection under this title is not available for any work of the United States government, but the United States government is not precluded form receiving and holding copyrights transferred to it by assignment, bequest, or otherwise. Thus, the federal government cannot create a copyright. As a result, no one knows if an independent housing authority, and the contracting or subcontracting architects, can protect their work when they receive money from the Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”), a cabinet in the executive branch. It would make sense to say that the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee (“HACM”) has the ability to copyright its project, since it was the agency that procured the various architects to create this masterpiece. However, should HACM be barred from protecting its development, since the funds are from the federal government? And do the architects have any say in this, because, after all, it is the result of their work?

This writer asserts that there should be available protection for both the independent agency and the architects. This Comment will shed light on those questions by analyzing the breadtrh of the Architectural Works Copyright Protection Act (“AWCPA”), and the ties between the federal government and local agencies who utilize its funds for public purposes. Milwaukee’s housing authority will be used as an example, and the first section will provide relevant background on the current AWCPA scheme. The second part of this Comment will analyze the ownership issues that arise from the current AWCPA scheme. Finally, this Comment will assert the relief available to architects whose architectural works are funded with federal dollars.