Picture credit: Laila Cadne on Instagram @lailacadne
The winners of the ‘Best Dressed’ prize at the ‘Bling-Lagos’ movie premiere, have been the subject of an online debate in recent weeks. Some have argued that Daala Oruwari’s outfit, which was styled by Teni Oluwo for styling company, Style Territory, was a clear infringement of Laila Cadne’s copyright when she designed, styled and photographed Aduke Shitta’s outfit. Another school of thought is of the opinion that it is simply a case of ‘inspiration’ as there is no copyright in ‘Aso-Oke’ or ‘jewelry layering’. This post seeks to shed some light on the difference between copyright infringement and simply drawing inspiration from a particular work.
What is Copyright?
Copyright is a legal and exclusive right to copy, or permit to be copied, some specific work of art. To be entitled to the protection of copyright, it is not enough to have created a work, such work must also show its eligibility for legal protection by exhibiting that:
a. sufficient effort has been expended on making the work to give it an original character; and
b. the work has been fixed in any medium of expression now known or later to be developed, from which it can be perceived, reproduced or otherwise communicated either directly or with the aid of any machine or device.
Copyright protects the expression of an idea and not the idea itself. For example, two designers may design the same outfit but portray them differently without infringing on each other’s copyright. Thus, a designer may have a style created for couture while another can create the same concept of the design, making sufficient changes to transform the original idea, but this time for high-street fashion.
Drawing inspiration from another’s work is acceptable but in order to benefit from the protection copyright offers and to avoid infringement, it is important to create works that fall under copyrightable works as defined in Section 1 (1) of the Act and that are original, using your own skills, labor, judgment and effort to give it a new character. Copyright infringement occurs when ‘the work as a whole or any substantial part of it’ has been copied.
In the subject case, can it be rightly said that there was an infringement of copyright?
Inspiration becomes imitation when the crux or main idea of a copyrightable work is copied. Section 1 (1) of the Copyright Act provides for works that are eligible for copyright protection and the same includes ‘artistic work’. Section 39 (1) of the Copyright Act defines ‘artistic work’ to include works of artistic craftmanship. Artistic craftsmanship has not been defined by the Copyright Act, and as such, whether a work demonstrates artistic craftsmanship is subjective, especially to the court’s interpretation. In general terms, however, the criteria for establishing that a work shows artistic craftmanship include:
- a conscious intention to produce a work of art;
- a real artistic or aesthetic quality; and
- a sufficient degree of craftsmanship and artistry (existing simultaneously).
As such, using the same color/geometric shapes/ expression of ideas used in a copyrightable work could count as imitation, however if the idea was interpreted sufficiently differently, it could be inspiration. The thin line between imitation and inspiration lies in the substantiality of the similarity in the two works. In the case, Steinberg v. Columbia Pictures, the court stated that style is merely one ingredient of expression and for there to be infringement, there has to be substantial similarity between the original work and the new, purportedly infringing, work.
The key elements to be noted are: (i) the original work has to be deemed to be copyrightable work as defined by Section 1 (1) of the Copyright Act; and (ii) the application of an ‘inspired’ work needs to be clearly different from the original idea; this means that it needs to be transformative and to a point where the connection to the original is hardly or no longer visible.
The contents of this news alert are meant for the general information of our clients and friends and do not amount to legal advice. All enquiries on the subject may be made to: email@example.com
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