Sending CAD drawings to Clients...


Can someone direct me to an AIA document or any other legal document which warns architects not to submit CAD drawings to clients, contractors, or other professionals (unless they're consultants)? My boss has absolutely no problem with this practice, though I'm fairly certain doing so has legal implications.

I created a CAD indemnification form which attempts to fully indemnify our firm, but I still feel we should not be sending the drawings out for all the obvious legal reasons (Proprietary purposes, varying field conditions and discrepancies, coordination, getting subs familiar with the work, etc).


Jun 30, 09 2:29 pm

Put it this way. The electronic file is property of the author. This is the law. If the author decides to release that electronic file to anyone it's their right. Now think of it this way, if the original drawings were hand drawn, would you lend those to someone?

Read the The Architectural Works Copyright Protection Act of 1990

It's up to the author what happens with the electronic file. Personally, I think it's not good practice to give anyone anything other than PDF's or prints of the original works

Now if the author decides to sell his rights to another than can be done too. But, a client cannot demand the orignals unless there is an agreement to release them.

Jun 30, 09 3:32 pm

Studio43, Thanks for your response.

I should mention that I'm not even concerned with copyright infringement at this point...It's more about dealing with legal problems that may arise if our drawings do not match all site conditions, or the inherent problems that arise when a contractor and his/her subs no longer feel the need to field verify conditions to ensure their shop drawings reflect site conditions.

I agree about the PDF comment. That is normally the only type of electronic file I send out...

Jun 30, 09 5:10 pm
Sean Taylor

Our former insurance company put out a "contract guide" handbook which had a chapter dedicated to this (possible problems, implications, suggestions for contract language, etc). You might want to find out if your liability insurance company can offer any guidance.

Jun 30, 09 5:32 pm


What did they say?

Jun 30, 09 5:52 pm


Jun 30, 09 7:21 pm

I have seen an Auto CAD release document that is signed by the party that is accepting the electronic files. Maybe you could right one up.

Jun 30, 09 7:50 pm

and yes i know, I cant spell

Jun 30, 09 7:50 pm

CAD drawings are an "instrument of service"--a tool for generating the actual contract documents. We usually just make clients and contractors sign a waiver acknowledging them as such and agreeing that they use any information contained in the file that DOES NOT appear in the contract documents at their own risk.

Jun 30, 09 9:00 pm
Sean Taylor

If I have time tomorrow I will summarize what my insurance carrier says. But, I will say that the (very few) times that we have let cabinetmakers use our CAD drawings as base drawings for their shops, we have not only had them sign a very stringent indemnity clause, we have made them pay us on a per sheet basis.

Jun 30, 09 10:21 pm

my usual practice- at the covering letter, state very clearly what's the purpose for forwarding these drawings (include drawing nos) + disclaimers.

Jul 1, 09 5:45 am

for example-

to clients- as per ur request we forward herewith xxx for ur references/record...etc (make sure u write as per client request, so u can charge them money)

to contractor- as per ur request, we forward herewith xxx for ur checking with on site conditions, u are to notify architects for any discrepancies found on site...etc...

Jul 1, 09 5:49 am
el jeffe

it isn't difficult to convert a pdf to vector graphics. it probably demands a bit more computer savvy & resourcefulness than a typical contractor or owner possesses, but still.

Jul 1, 09 11:30 am

we tend to do it from time to time, but just make sure you get a waiver signed, saying this is not part of the contract documents or something that releases any liability you have

otherwise i dont think its really a big deal if you get something signed

Jul 1, 09 1:01 pm

we tend to do it from time to time, but just make sure you get a waiver signed, saying this is not part of the contract documents or something that releases any liability you have

otherwise i dont think its really a big deal if you get something signed

Jul 1, 09 1:01 pm

The bottom line is that cad files are not your contract documents.
Look at how these people do it.

Jul 1, 09 2:45 pm
el jeffe

that KLH form is impressive.

Jul 1, 09 5:30 pm

when i worked in the exhibit industry, we always request cad dwgs from architects when doing build outs. we use them as cross referencing. most of the time the cad dwg's are messed up as in layering/colors/lineweights anyways that we would do our own set. we also have to make sure the dwg's are laid out for production/cnc which is a whole 'nother way of laying out a sheet.

Jul 1, 09 6:04 pm

I agree, el jeffe... smacks of being very ORGANIZED. Thanks, for posting that, ckl...

Jul 1, 09 8:48 pm

i love that form.

Jul 1, 09 10:07 pm

That's interesting. I am in a situation where the client and I are parting ways and they want to use my drawings for future work. They have indemnified me for this set but they want the rights to use them in the future.

What are my drawings worth? Any ideas?

Jul 1, 09 10:30 pm

If you used the AIA contract you can charge what ever you want.

Are these prototype drawings?

We used to develop residential stock plans as well as have a basic 10,000 sqft contractor storage building set. We would discount the third building built from the same set. We never gave out cad files of these sets. Site specific and purpose built buildings we are more lenient with.

See if they will take floor plans and elevations only. No MEP and S

Jul 1, 09 10:49 pm

They are repair drawings. I'll look at the AIA contract. They'll need them to finish the work over the next few years.

Jul 1, 09 10:58 pm

The building is valued in the tens of millions.

Jul 1, 09 10:58 pm

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