|Is this the red bus that sparked |
a thousand copyright debates?
He wrote in response to my musings regarding the current test for copyright subsistence in photographs:
Does Painer apply? Painer was considering the "own intellectual creation" standard for European Law, but common law protection is, arguably, lower (I'd say - almost indisputably).My understanding was that there are not two systems that run in parallel for assessing whether a photograph has artistic copyright and that following Infopaq, which was confirmed in Painer, the correct test is now "author's own intellectual creation" rather than the common law approach of originality. However, lacking complete confidence in my convictions, I deferred to a higher authority, namely Dr Justine Pila of Oxford University. She, diplomatically, replied as follows:
Surely recital 16/article 6 of 2006/116/EC preserved the common law level of protection for "uncreative" photographs? The 1988 was not, and could not, be amended to raise that level of protection by a regulations made under the 1972 Act, so the law must, presumably, be the common law. Unless some new, countervailing, principle exists that has never been properly articulated.
I agree with you both.
1. Is the common law originality standard lower than the EU ("author's own intellectual creation") standard?
*If* the common law standard requires "skill and labour" only, and *if* the EU standard requires creativity (as per Floyd J and AG Mengozzi in Football Dataco) then *in principle* yes - and this certainly was the view of AG Mengozzi in that case ("copyright protection is conditional upon the database being characterised by a ‘creative’ aspect, and it is not sufficient that the creation of the database required labour and skill").
2. Does the Term Directive permit Member States to confer copyright protection on photographs which satisfy the common law originality standard but not the EU standard?
I think it does. Article 6 of the Term Directive requires that photographs satisfying the EU standard be protected as literary or artistic works within the meaning of Berne Art 2 - ie, by lit/artistic copyright - without the imposition of any other criteria. And it expressly permits [Member States] to "provide for the protection of other photographs", ie, photographs not satisfying the EU standard. So the only question is whether UK law still recognises the sufficiency of the common law originality standard with respect to photographs.
3. Does UK law recognise photographic copyright in the absence of "creativity"?
I think it does, consistent with Antiquesportfolio.com (2001 Ch).
4. Does it follow that UK copyright only subsists in photographs if they are creative, or that the UK and European tests of photographic copyright differ?
No, I don't think so, because I don't think that Painer requires creativity for photographic copyright. Rather, it requires (a) that the subject matter of a photograph leaves scope for “sufficient formative freedom”, and (b) that the photographer exploit that freedom so as to leave his “mark” on the resulting work (ie, the photograph). (And it held that in the case of a photographic portrait, there is sufficient formative freedom, and thus the possibility of copyright, as "the photographer can determine, among other things, the angle, the position and the facial expression of the person portrayed, the background, the sharpness, and the light/lighting.") In my view this is perfectly consistent with the UK approach as adopted in Antiquesportfolio.com, where the court held that UK copyright will always subsist in a photograph of a single, static non-spherical 3-d object (eg, antiques) on the basis of the judgement involved in positioning the object, determining the angle at which it is to be taken, and determining the lighting and focus.
So I agree with you, that the European and UK tests of photographic copyright are the same, and conform with that adopted in Painer. The critical question in any particular case is whether the subject matter leaves scope for “sufficient formative freedom” which the photographer exploits so as to leave his “mark” on the resulting work. This test seems better captured by the "author's own intellectual creation" formulation than the "skill and labour" one; though in fact UK courts have often expressed the common law originality standard in terms of "skill, labour and judgement", which is arguably not different from the European "author's own intellectual creation" test. And I personally doubt that the EU test requires creativity - it's almost identical to the Canadian test, which was formulated partly so as to underline that creativity is *not* required. (That at least is my memory.)
Do you agree? Where is the line in your jurisdiction? Where do you think the line for copyright subsistence should lie? Please join in the debate using the comments section below.
Note: no weblinks were included in the correspondence. They have been included in this blog for readers' ease of reference.