A Toronto family has taken the issue of copyright to a different level as it sued its neighbours for copying the design of their multi-million-dollar house.
The family which lives at the Toronto’s Forest Hill said the neighbours violated its copyright when renovating their property, thus decreasing the value of their own home.
The Jason and Jodi Chapnick family therefore demanded over $2.5 million in damages Barbara Ann and Eric Kirshenblatt.
As it stands now, learning from the experience of Barbara Ann and Eric Kirshenblatt family, one needs the permission of another to build a house to look like theirs.
This was what the Kirshenblatt family had to suffer three years ago, when they were taken to court by their neighbors, Jason and Jodi Chapnick, whose home they had allegedly used as inspiration when renovating their own property.
The claimant’s argument was that, the defendants had fixed up their house to look “strikingly similar” to theirs, including using matching stonework the same shade of blue.
In all, the aggrieved family were asking for $1.5 million in damages, $20,000 in statutory copyright damages, $1 million in punitive damages, and for the defendants to change the look of their house.
In their statement of claim made in 2014 , Jason and Jodi Chapnick described their architect-designed home as “one of the most well-known and admired houses in the Cedarvale and Forest Hill neighbourhoods, in a large part due to its uniqueness.”
What saddened the claimants most was the fact that the defendants’ breach of their copyright ended up increasing the value of their (defendant) newly bought house, while decreasing the value of theirs (the claimant).
According to Odditycentral.com, both the Chapnicks and the Kirshenblatts provided photos to prove their case, with the former insisting that both the general look and small design elements, like the windows, the chimneys and the arched doors were incredibly similar, while the latter claiming that their house was simply inspired by Tudor stone cottages, and that they had done nothing wrong.
However, Jason Chapnik, an entrepreneur and CEO of a Toronto-based investment firm, insists that, when his neighbors began renovating their house, their contractors visited his home and “indicated that they were building a house nearby and were copying aspects of his design.” Chapnik only noticed the similarities when his neighbors blue windows were installed, and he immediately delivered a notice to Barbara Ann Kirshenblatt to “cease infringing” his copyrighted house.
Barbara Ann and Eric Kirshenblatt never resided at their newly renovated house, and in February 2015, they sold it for $3.5 million, almost $2 million more than what they had paid for the property.
This was what infuriated the claimants to file their lawsuit.
The plaintiffs asked their neighbors to provide photos of houses that they had used as inspiration to prove that they had not stolen their design, but only received photos of houses found online as well as of a famous movie castle. “The defendants do not know the addresses for the houses (found online) or the Castle from the James Bond movie,” case documents show.
Odditycentral.com further reports that after three years of litigation, the two families, whose homes are on different streets, 850 meters apart, have finally decided to settle out of court, for an undisclosed amount.
Jason and Jodi Chapnick said “A tremendous amount of skill, effort, time, judgment, care (and money) was spent across nearly seven years in terms of designing, architecting and building a unique and beautiful house. The settlement will allow us peace of mind to know that this should not happen again in the future.”
The Kirshenblatts’ lawyer said “Given the costs associated with the matter through trial, it was in the interests of all parties to reach an amicable settlement.”
While rare, copyright cases between homeowners should act as a warning to everyone that just because you like how a house is designed, you can’t just use it as inspiration for free.
Meanwhile, an associate professor at Osgoode Hall Law School, Carys Craig, told The Toronto Star that, “We often don’t think about architecture when we think about copyright, and we often don’t think about buildings as works of art, so it might seem like a particularly strange claim to the average person who assumes that if you own a home you can design it as you want.”