Do I need permission from the owners of a building to depict a drawing of it on the cover of my novel?

  • A real, private building? What does that even mean? If it's on the street in the public view, it's OK to draw it. Look at all the paintings and pictures of buildings in art galleries and museums all over the world...I doubt every artist asked anyone about that....
    – Lambie
    Mar 28, 2016 at 16:16

1 Answer 1


There are a lot of different things to consider. First, the picture itself if drawn would be your property so you don't really have to worry about that aspect of it, however it may depend on the type of property, and the type of ownership the property has. You could avoid the issue entirely by changing a thing or two about the building itself, such as an extra window, a few extra steps, and writing a disclaimer that anything that depicts real life is coincidence or something like that.

If you previously owned the property, you are probably safe, but as a courtesy it may be polite to ask, though I don't think it is necessary.

If it is owned by multiple people, or a corporation, or a government agency, you may run into more issues and if it were deemed a security risk how it was depicted you may run a greater risk. In this case I definitely would recommend depicting publically viewable perspectives of the property, and altercating something in the depiction as previously mentioned to protect yourself.

I would say the safest way to check yourself would be to look up the property on the internet, whatever is viewable via a search of the property is going to be safe to depict as is, and you should not run any problems.

These are just my recommendations, but I do not have legal credentials, and am only speaking from personal experience on how I would handle this specific situation. Hope this is helpful! Good luck.

  • I think this answer is overly cautious: if you can stand on a street and see it, you can draw it. What's the problem? Are they going to sue you for something everyone can see? Of course not. In fact, you can even draw or paint it badly, in your own image: I have seen paintings of Durham Cathedral that just can't be real representations of the place e.g. the tower is in the wrong place. Mar 28, 2016 at 20:21
  • Thanks, Tave. Much appreciated. That was my first instinct, but my lawyer friend who doesn't specialize in this area said I would need permission.
    – m kavanagh
    Mar 28, 2016 at 21:29
  • Sorry, I disagree. Something in the public view can be photographed, painted or drawn. Forget your lawyer friend. Like I said above, museums, art galleries, magazine covers etc. are all filled with representations and depictions of property and buidlings....come on....
    – Lambie
    Mar 28, 2016 at 21:33
  • Private property still has certain levels of protection. Like I said, you usually are fine, and will rarely need permission, but understanding security lawsuits and trespassing laws is important. Just because it is viewable does not mean it is necessarily legal to reproduce it. Where you would be liable is if someone used the depiction to breech security or commit a crime of some kind, you could be liable for the damages. Mar 29, 2016 at 17:02
  • While my note is on the side of caution, changing a reproduction slightly can go a long way to cover you. In giving any legal advice I would speak to the side of caution and say that in the end to use your best judgment. Mar 29, 2016 at 17:06

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