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The strength of Copyright

Written by Saowanee Kristin, a post- graduate student on work experience at Lawdit on 10 December 2013

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Copyright arises automatically, as long as there is originality in the work (not a direct copy) and as long as the work is fixed in its expression (not merely an idea).

In the UK, copyright can only protect the 8 categories of work that are listed in the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
Providing that the work meets these criteria, copyright protection will be afforded to the work.

For instance, a cartoon may be afforded protection.  The representation of the cartoon is in a 2D drawing, however if this cartoon is substantially reproduced in a 3D form, such as a toy, then this can infringe copyright. Although the reproduction of the cartoon is in a 3D form the copyright owner has the exclusive economic right to reproduce the work and this includes to another dimension.

An example of this was seen in the House of Lords decision in the 'Popeye Case' (King Features Syndicate, Incorporated, and Another Appellants; v O. and M. Kleeman, Limited Respondents [1941] A.C. 417) where the popular cartoon 'Popeye' was recreated in the form of dolls and figurines.

This case found that the "defendants' dolls and brooches were reproductions in a material form of the plaintiffs' original artistic work and were not the less so because they were copied, not directly from any sketch of the plaintiffs, but from a reproduction in material form derived directly or indirectly from the original work, and that s. 22 of the Copyright Act, 1911, did not operate to bring an existing copyright to an end or to absolve pirates from the offence of piracy."

The effect of this decision means that if you own copyright in a 2D image you will also have copyright in the 3D representation of that image. The 'Popeye Case' enforces the strength of copyright and acts as a reminder that despite copyright being a non-registerable intellectual property right, copyright can still yield great power.

This article was written by Saowanee Kristin, an IP post-graduate student on work experience at Lawdit

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