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August 17, 2012
How Far Does Copyright Extend in Functional vs Expressive?
This week the Second Circuit (which we remember from its distressing decision in recent First Sale doctrine) issued an opinion in Scholz v Sard (opinion summary here on Justia). The Circuit reversed a lower court ruling and found that the drawings were subject to copyright protection.
This is interesting, as previously the lower court had found there was no protection due to the drawings not having the use commonly associated with such drawings. Architectural plans are both expressive and functional - they're intended to allow the construction of buildings, for example, and provide enough detailed information for such functional uses. But in this case the drawings didn't contain enough detail to be used that way. So the question at hand was whether the expressive/artist elements of the drawings were sufficient to merit protection.
This has obvious implications beyond architecture, as many professions produce documents that are intended for functional uses and may also qualify for copyright protection as expressive works. The software industry, for example, produces great quantities of such documents.
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