- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 5, 2016

FARGO, N.D. (AP) - An organization representing homebuilders in North Dakota’s largest city is asking its members to be on the lookout for pirated house plans.

A civil lawsuit filed last month accusing a Fargo couple of copying architectural drawings and peddling them to builders sparked the Fargo-Moorhead Home Builders Association to bring in an expert on federal copyright law to update the group.

“It’s not the first time we’ve heard about copyright infringement, but we wanted to refresh everybody’s memory and what the laws are and how they work,” said Clay Dietrich, immediate past president of the association. “A lot of times people try to claim ignorance, but that’s really not an excuse under federal law.”

A civil lawsuit filed by Building Concepts Inc. accuses Brian and Linda Meier of federal copyright infringement. The complaint says the couple removed the copyright reservation and distributed the plans to general contractors, suppliers and tradesmen in an effort to elicit construction bids for the home.

The Meiers deny the allegations. They say they were dealing with more than one architect in the process and told every homebuilder who was shown the drawings to return or destroy them. The couple has filed a counterclaim accusing Building Concepts of failing to complete the plans in a timely manner and backing out on a deal to finance construction.

An attorney for the Meiers was not immediately available for comment Tuesday.

Dan Frisk, attorney for Building Concepts, declined to comment specifically about the lawsuit, but said the general issue has become “more pervasive” with the uptick in building in a burgeoning metro area.

“I’m hearing of more complaints with builders and architects trying to preserve their designs,” Frisk said.

Copyright law was specifically extended to architectural designs in 1990. The federal statute generally prohibits people from sharing copyright plans without a license or permission. Dietrich said that while Fargo continues to grow, it’s still small enough where most of the builders recognize protected work.

“The builders should know better,” he said. “I don’t think a lot of consumers are aware what it takes to produce that work and how expensive it is.”

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