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Recently my father, a long time residential home designer, passed away.
I am sitting on decades of his work in the form of DWG files. I also have several builders/clients trying to gain access to these DWG files.
I am certainly not going to turn over these files, though they aren't doing any good sitting dormant in a computer.
Curious if anyone knows of any programs where I could store the DWG files in a Cloud where the builders could still have access to the files through a reuse fee?
Additionally, could anyone speak to the basic intellectual property rights I have to the files. Can I post them virtually giving anyone access to the work?
rkendust - hi there. great question. so, legally, your dad owns all the copyrights to the work (assuming you're in the u.s.) by virtue of creating them. that's pretty much the beginning and the end of the intellectual property rights that you'd have. if you wanted to registered them as copyrighted material, it would greatly enhance your chances of winning if someone were to try and rip you off.
the first thing i'd do, in your shoes, would be to convert all of the dwg files to PDF's. The way I would do that is to print each one at 'full size', then have those prints scanned. then i'd put the dwg's away somewhere unless you want to use them to customize or tweak the designs (for a fee) when you sell a set of plans. the scanned PDF's are nearly impossible to easily copy over to modify. not impossible (and not particularly difficult) but very cumbersome.
then, i'd take your best 10-20 designs and approach a few companies like houseplans.com (where we have some plans hosted) or some other online reseller. chances are, you'll have better luck selling them that way. they can also help manage the selling process. yes, you'll give them a cut of the profits, but it'll be worth it.
lastly, don't, under any circumstances, sell the actual dwg's to a builder unless you want to give up any real way of getting them to ever pay you again. meaning, once they have the cad's, what's to stop them from selling them as their own? they'll make what they think are enough modifications to skirt the copyright issues and go to town. sell only PDF's. but that's just my take...
sorry to hear about your loss rkendust
the copyright isn't inherited? i would think you have rights to give them to whoever you want, as long as your father didn't set up a contract with his client saying the client gets the copyright, which is possible. i don't really know though, i'm a not a lawyer and you should probably ask one of those sorts about specific rights. it would help if your dad had contracts for the work he did, and if you had copies of said contracts.
rkendust didn't indicate he has an interest in architecture, so he might want to do whatever he thinks he needs to do but doesn't want to do architect work like adjusting drawings. i cringe a little when i hear 'cloud storage.' i think it's more of an idea then a thing. for what it sounds like you want to do, you should be able to find an architectural blueprint type printing company that will offer a document management service. most of those companies that I deal with are trying to provide more digital services.
i'm also trying to wrap my head around "access with a reuse fee." i get what you would want from that, but i don't think it typically happens. if a builder built 10 copies of the same house off your plans, i would think they would take your cad file, print it once, and assume they can build 10 houses off it. that's not the right thing to do, and you would probably have some legal protection, but contractors and developers often lack scruples. i suspect it might be difficult for you to turn and sort of profit off the work.
Thank you for all your responses and kin words.
I'm not really looking to "turn a profit," however everyone keeps telling me my father spent years building his business and designing wonderful homes, and it's a shame they are just sitting in a computer. I would be looking to more carry on his legacy of work so others can benefit from his hard work. I have no interest in getting into the design side his business.
I have builders begging me for the DWG files like they are something they paid for, knowing the DWGs are ours/my fathers business, and it's actually turning into a bit of a pain.
Someone mentioned that there is a method by which I could upload the DWG to a server and give "clients" access to the DWG for a fee, without giving them the ability to actually download the DWGs.
From the builders perspective the .pdfs aren't any good because they'll still need to have a draftsman redo the DWGs based off the pdf.
I'll check out houseplans.com and see what my options are.
To add to the comments above and address what you've just added:
I think you could use Dropbox or box.net to post files and set up security rights so that only certain email addresses can download them.
As to giving them the dwgs, we have in the past released 2d drawings and 3d model files to contractors in order to facilitate communication with the expectation that absolutely no elements of the design can be used for any other project. That said, the projects that we typically do are so custom that it's nearly impossible for a contractor to use them on another project.
If your Father's work was primarily in residential single family homes, then it is highly likely that the project or elements of the project could be copied on another project, which would void the copyright. I agreed with the posters above that one way to help with the is just to release PDFs. In a typical process, the builder should redraw the plans anyway in the form of what we call 'shop drawings'. It is the way we make sure the builder actually is following the design intent, before material arrives on site. This is common practice and every contractor knows this. Any contractor who tells you otherwise is lying and has underhanded motives (getting drawings he can use on other projects).
Of course you can always opt to sell the dwgs with the above in mind, but you should also sell the copyright (and hence charge a bit more for the whole package.).
quick genuine answer: use dropbox to share files and work on files. box.net has file size restrictions.
get an amazon glacier sub for long term storage. amazon glacier is way way cheap and extremely convenient for when it comes to long term storage (i think it's like a dollar a month to store a terabyte).
Once the DWG file is out in the wild, you have lost it forever. I strongly recommend against giving CAD files to clients, no matter how much they want them. Unless, of course, they're willing to pay a large amount of money for them. By asking for the CAD files, they aren't asking for a product of your late father's business. They are asking for the business itself. If you want to give the business to them without compensation, that's you're affair. But be aware that you would be giving them something of much higher value than a simple set of drawings. If they want the business, let them buy the business.
I strongly echo the advice above that converting the DWGs to PDFs is the way to go.
And remember, exporting/saving to a pdf preserves layers and vector data, so "printing to pdf" would be the best option, flattening the data, if you aren't going to re-scan a printout.