Photographers commonly take photos of buildings and landscapes and of views that encompass structures and then sell them under license and it times do not account for the copyright protection of photos of architectural structures. Under the Copyright Act, a private place though open to the public for touring is still not considered a public place. Traditionally copyright protection is for works of authorship expressed in a fixed medium. 17 U.S.C. § 102.
But the matter involving a public place having a plain meaning is complicated when the structure is one that could be eligible for protection. The sites that post photos are inclined to see photos of museums, churches, government buildings, monuments as public place structures visible from a public place and cannot be protected, despite photographers claiming a right to license such photo.
Protection does inure to the interior. The exterior however, while visible from a public place, the protection does not inure. If the structure is not visible from a public place that is commonly walked on, copyright protection does inure and photos of structures, as well as sales of those photos can be stopped. Copyrighted architectural work of a design of a structure is prohibited from it being copied, photographed or distributed, if the structure or building on which the design is on, is not visible from public settings.
The copyright protection of photos of architectural structures also applies to the interior prohibition of photos, unlike the exterior from a public visible place, can be effectuated by having a policy statement that prohibits photos. Websites that post photos for sale would take them down if you demonstrate the existence of such policies that prohibit the taking of photos within the interior. The interior of buildings of private property typically are not visible from a public place. Yet, in Robins, the U.S. Supreme Court said that inviting the public to enter a property does not take away its private character.
Sites will routinely challenge take down requests of their posting of photos provided by photographers who will as well argue that as a property is open to the public it should be considered a public place where photos can be taken. Under that reasoning traditionally protected structures under copyright protection such as churches and museums having copyrighted designs would not be protected. The issue continues as photographers seek protection for their photos.