A top commercials director has lost the latest stage in his battle
to prove that his work was ripped off and used for a national TV
In a decision eagerly awaited by the UK ad industry, the Court of Appeal
has rejected a damages claim by Mehdi Norowzian against Guinness and
Arks, the Dublin agency, for breach of copyright.
But the verdict has prompted a warning from Norowzian’s lawyers that it
is a major blow for agencies and directors, many of whom would be left
without the copyright protection that made their talents a saleable
The legal dispute was sparked by a 1995 commercial called
’anticipation’, which featured a drinker dancing maniacally around a
pint of Guinness as it settled.
Norowzian claimed the ad was copied from a short film called Joy, which
he had made for his showreel.
After Norowzian refused an offer from Arks to direct the commercial, the
agency made it with a different director, actor and storyboard but
employed ’jump cutting’ and other techniques used in Joy.
The director was appealing against Mr Justice Rattee’s 1998 dismissal of
The judge ruled that Joy was neither a dramatic work nor a recording of
a dramatic work entitled to protection under the 1988 Copyright, Designs
and Patents Act.
The appeal court judges conceded that although there were striking
similarities, Norowzian’s copyright had not been breached because there
was no copyright in ’mere style or technique’.
They said that although Mr Justice Rattee was wrong to conclude that Joy
was not a dramatic work, they accepted his finding that a substantial
part of it had not been copied in ’anticipation’.
Charles Swan, a lawyer at the media law firm, Simkins Partnership, said:
’The confirmation that style and technique are not copyright protected
in themselves is relevant across all media.’