EDITORIAL: Norowzian case throws up interesting dilemma
By DOMINIC MILLS, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 31 July 1998 12:00AM
The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising was quick to rush out a press release last week welcoming the High Court’s ruling in the Guinness vs Norowzian case. The agency body believes that Mr Justice Rattee’s decision in favour of the advertiser and its agency, Arks, will ensure that ’inspiration’ does not become a copyright infringement issue.
The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising was quick to rush out
a press release last week welcoming the High Court’s ruling in the
Guinness vs Norowzian case. The agency body believes that Mr Justice
Rattee’s decision in favour of the advertiser and its agency, Arks, will
ensure that ’inspiration’ does not become a copyright infringement
It is indeed tempting to conclude that agencies are the winners - and
directors the losers - in this contest. While directors are left with no
protection for the artistry they bring to a film in post-production,
agencies are free to pilfer to their hearts’ content.
But if the IPA’s fears are that a ruling in favour of Norowzian would
give copyright protection to ideas - as opposed to the embodiment of
those ideas - those fears are surely misplaced.
The ruling, if upheld, establishes two things, neither of which is to do
with the protection of ideas. Firstly, finished (ie, edited) films are
not protected from anything but mechanical copying. Secondly, in British
law, the style of a film is distinct from its content. So the work of
those in charge of the style (directors) is exempt from copyright, while
the work of those in charge of content (writers) is protected.
One of two things must now happen: either the appeal judge will
interpret the existing law in a less literal fashion. Or the law must be
In the meantime, creatives would do well to reflect that if they are
free to use other people’s films, so others can use their work. It’s
hard not to agree with Oliver Maland, Norowzian’s lawyer, when he says:
’The losers will be the most innovative, the winners the least
innovative.’ Wherever they work.
This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk
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