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Motion graphics copyright

 
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digitalmonk
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PostPosted: Fri May 31, 2013 11:53 am    Post subject: Motion graphics copyright Reply with quote

Hi all,

Thanks for this great forum.

I am rather confused by the extent of which "substantial copying" is defined.

If one sells chicken soup does this infringe the rights of the "owner" of the chicken soup recipe?

I'm a UK motion graphics artist and I've recently developed a motion graphics template for sale on the open market that used similar 3D geometry already developed and sold on the open market and have been accused of 'copying' the design when the are numerous differences such a changes in the original geometry, lighting, texturing, camera movement etc. I'm not sure where I stand.

Also, no details on licensing when the allegedly 'copied' 3D geometry was acquired.

I take it the law is enforced and is relative to the country the works are 'copied' or is the where 'copier' resides or sold the works?

Thanks for any clarification.
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AndyJ
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PostPosted: Fri May 31, 2013 6:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi digitalmonk,
First of all it is settled law that making a dish from a recipe does not infringe any copyright in the recipe. In fact most recipes probably don't qualify for copyright when they are simple lists of ingredients (facts) and a simple, possibly obvious, methodology is used to assemble the ingredients.
But of course that was not really your question.
And it appears that this might not be just about copyright. You mention that someone alleges you have infringed their design, which is a separate form of intellectual property and infringement would be governed by different factors to copyright.
However I am not clear what you mean by 3D geometry*. Is this something which is purely software driven, and if so do you use a commercial program for which you have written specific 'actions' or scripts to produce your own graphic effects, or have you written something in a high level programming language from scratch? Computer programs are copyright works, but their output, especially where they are graphical, are separate works, not governed by the copyright in the programme, much as making chicken soup does not infringe the recipe. The graphics themselves can be artistic works, and protected like physical paintings or drawings, but even if the appearance of your finished graphic output resembles something produced by someone else, so long as yours was produced independently without any deliberate intention of copying, then it is unlikely infringement of a copyright has occurred.
However a process which results in a specific outcome can times be protected by patent (a third form of intellectual property), where the fact that an identical process or invention has been arrived at independently does not provide a defence under patent law.
Protection of designs is largely concerned with real life three dimensional objects, so for instance a rival company would be prevented from producing a vacuum cleaner which looks exactly like a Dyson model, but determination of how much similarity there is will be based on the non-functional elements, for instance the styling or contours or colours chosen for the device. If I am right in thinking that you are talking about graphical works produced by a computer or some sort of algorithm, then it is unlikely that design right will apply here.
So before I go into too much detail, can you explain (simply) how your template works and what is the form of the output?
And just to clear up your final point, yes, infringement is usually judged on the law applicable in the jurisdiction where the alleged copying is said to have taken place. The residence of the 'copier' may be less of a factor. To take a different example, if a hacker based in the UK hacks into a server physically located in the USA, the 'act' occurred in the USA, but it so happens that the relevant UK law (the Computer Misuse Act 1990) would still make it an offence which could be tried in the UK.

* I assume we are not talking about conventional animation using gels or stop motion photography etc.
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digitalmonk
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PostPosted: Fri May 31, 2013 10:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi AndyJ,

Many thanks indeed for the reply.

This seems a very complicated area if you are not familiar with all the legalities like me.

3D geometry is essentially the organisation of one or more polygons set in a virtual 3D environment or 3D world. A typical example of 3D geometry would be a cube which is made of six sides or 6 polygons (on at each side).

3D software would be needed to create or edit such geometry or its attributes - to turn the cube into something that looks like a dice for example that can be viewed from any angle.

In my case I bought something similar to the dice (but a little more complicated) and changed it a bit and output something similar that can be used in a template that doesn't require specialist and expensive 3D software.

I would put a link to what I bought etc. here but I'm not able to do so yet.

The (modified) 3D geometry etc. was not sold or resold (it was turned into video files) so I can only imagine it is an issue of intellectual property/design infringement though I'm not sure this has any merit as the works were sold almost to use as you please? I also seriously doubt the 'owner' patented anything to do with this. No licensing info etc. attached to the purchase.

The output in question was sold in a completely different form.

Hope this clarifies but let me know if I've not explained anything properly.

Any help will certainly clear things up for me going forward.
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AndyJ
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PostPosted: Fri May 31, 2013 11:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Let me see if I have this correct. You own some proprietary software which allows you to create these 3D polygons, and you have developed the cube shape, presumably without modifying or re-using the code from the original program, to make a run-time version which doesn't require any part of the original program in order to run.
If that is the case (allowing for minor differences which I may missed), then I really can't see how your template infringes the original program.
There are two cases which give some idea how the courts react to this sort of issue. The first is one called Nova Productions Ltd v Mazooma Games Ltd, which involved allegations that one games developer had copied the look and feel (as opposed to any code) of the other game, both of which involved snooker. There were several elements to the claim, one of which was that the graphics of the second game (made by Mazooma and known as Jackpot Pool) were similar to the original game made by Nova and called Pocket Money. However both the court of first instance and the Court of Appeal rejected this on the grounds that most of the graphical elements were either part of what you might find when viewing a real game of snooker (coloured balls, pockets, angles of shot etc) or very commonplace features found in lots of games, such as a countdown ticker. Both courts also dismissed the claim that the overall look and feel of the two games was the same. The main relevance of this decision to your case is that the courts found that as far as graphical output was concerned (in this case, bitmaps) each freeze frame screen had to be treated as an individual artistic work when compared to a corresponding freeze frame of the other game, to see if there was a substantial similarity, and it was not appropriate to consider a whole sequence of images which more resembled a film.
The second case is called SAS Institute Inc v World Programming Ltd.[2013] EWHC Ch 69. This case involved the SAS suite of analytical software which included a scripting language which allowed users to develop their own bespoke scripts for conducting specific analytic tasks. World Programming developed their own software which could emulate the SAS programming language, but did not actually use any of SAS's code. SAS brought a claim of infringement of their software, but WPL won (except for the fact that they were found to have copied some text from an SAS manual). It is probably better for you to read the judgment yourself, if you have the time, rather than have me try and paraphrase it. That way you can judge how similar the facts in the SAS v WPL case are to your own. One thing is clear: creating software which interfaces with other software (for instance through APIs) does not infringe copyright in the primary software. More details on this can be found in the EU Software Directive, but that really is heavy reading so I won't confuse you be posting link here, although you could Google it if you wished.
Let me know if I have got the facts wrong about how you have arrived at your 3D template.
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digitalmonk
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 01, 2013 7:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi AndyJ,

Yes, indeed correct that I own some propriety software that allows the creation of 3D objects and polygons etc.

The reference to a cube was just an example. What I actually created was a logo animation whereby users could easily import their logo and have a ready made animation they could use for their YouTube channel as an example.

The 3D elements (i.e. the background elements) or the design thereof I'm accused of 'copying' albeit there a differences - I made various changes to them after acquisition and output or rendered them to using the aforementioned propriety 3D software.

The case law you refer seems to have relevance though I'm not sure whether or not it applies as the items were sold on a website based in Australia (as far as I know but may be wrong). I am based in the UK however. Does this mean Australian law applies?

Definitely very interesting though...

There may be one or two freeze frames of the animation that looks similar to the original (of course the logo would be different) so I'm not sure this gets over the 'substantial similarity' hurdle.
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AndyJ
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 01, 2013 9:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi digitalmonk,
I'm glad that I seem to have grasped the majority of this process. If the proprietary program is designed to let you produce your own actions or scripts then it seems likely that what you have done would fall within the SAS v WPL analysis of what is permissible. It sounds as if what the other person is complaining about is the similarity of the end product, rather than the process which achieves it. If that is so, then clearly much will depend not just on how similar the designs are, but also on whether they are commonplace, and whether it can be shown that you set out to copy them, or if you came to the same result by an independent route. It would be for the complainant to show that you intentionally copied rather than arrived at any similarity by coincidence.
As for which legal system applies, as you are based in the UK, the complainant would have to come to the UK courts to bring a case. He could in theory go to an Australian court, but since that court would have no jurisdiction over you, any judgment could not be enforced as long as you didn't go to Australia (or if you do go at some future date, then the complainant would need to know that in order to try and get the court to enforce any damages). Fortunately UK and Australian law are very similar in this context, although the Australians clearly don't have the added task of complying with EU directives. If you are marketing of template through a site like ebay, then it is possible for the complainant to send them a takedown notice based on their claim of infringement, but if you refute the claim, then ebay should, in theory, restore your account and leave it to the complainant to make his case in court. However sometimes ebay are not so quick to restore accounts as they are in taking them down. On the other hand, if you are selling through your own website, this won't be an issue.
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digitalmonk
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 01, 2013 12:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi AndyJ,

Yes indeed, I sense it is the similarity of the end product. Though this said, there are fundamental differences like the fact that no specialized and expensive 3D software is needed to render out the animation. It was effectively an Adobe After Effects project (typically designed for post work).

I spent quite a lot of time doing it and now the site (VideoHive) has taken it down pending a review - I suspect the alleged 'owner' complained or the competition did and informed the 'owner' who is based in Italy it seems.

VideoHive are very woolly about their reasons so far to say the least so I thought I would try do my homework on this issue.
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digitalmonk
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 03, 2013 11:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi AndyJ,

This is the feedback I received:

We are not copyright investigators and itís your responsibility to create original items and properly license assets that are used in your items. However, the issue that has become apparent with your item is a copy of another item.

Not sure it is worth fighting with this one...
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