The legal controversy surrounding a Guinness TV commercial, which
is claimed to have exposed a serious flaw in Britain’s copyright laws,
is to go to the Court of Appeal.
The director, Mehdi Norowzian, has lodged an appeal after failing to
persuade a High Court judge that the brewer and one of its agencies
ripped off his idea.
The verdict stunned the industry and provoked claims that a legal
anomaly had left commercials directors at the mercy of plagiarists.
Now, Norowzian’s lawyers are asking for the ruling to be overturned,
claiming the judge wrongly interpreted the 1988 Copyright Designs and
Patents Act, on which it was based.
The courtroom battle in July was over a commercial called ’anticipation’
featuring a drinker dancing around a pint of Guinness as he waits for it
to settle. Norowzian alleged that the idea was copied by the Dublin
agency, Arks, from Joy, a short film made for his showreel.
Mr Justice Rattee accepted that Joy had been used as a ’point of
reference’ in the making of the commercial but ruled that, as a film, it
was protected by the 1988 act only against mechanical copying.
In his appeal, Norowzian argues that the judge’s interpretation of the
Act was too narrow. He maintains that Joy qualified as a dramatic work
subject to copyright protection - even though it could not be physically
performed, danced or mimed - and that copyright should have subsisted in
Joy’s final edited version.
He says he was trying to protect the finished version of a dramatic work
recorded on film, not the film itself, and claims the judge was wrong to
disregard similarities in the two films which could only be a result of
Norowzian also cites a list of shared features of both films - from the
actor being seen in close-up and long-shot alternatively to his eyebrow
movements close to camera - to which he says the judge paid insufficient
The appeal is expected to be heard in the next 12 months.