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Elements of originality may include posing the subjects, lighting, angle, selection of film and camera, evoking the desired expression, and almost any other variant involved, but "slavish copying," although doubtless requiring technical skill and effort, does not qualify for copyright protection.
Plaintiff filed a copyright infringement action against defendants and the court granted defendants' motion for summary judgment dismissing the claim on the alternative grounds that the allegedly infringed works, color transparencies of paintings which themselves were in the public domain, were not original and, therefore, not permissible subjects of valid copyright and, in any case, were not infringed. Following entry of final judgment, plaintiff moved for re-argument and reconsideration, arguing that the court erred on the issue of originality.
Did the work of the plaintiff qualify for copyright protection?
The court granted plaintiff's motion, but on re-argument and reconsideration, again granted defendants' summary judgment motion. The court analyzed the various choice of law possibilities and concluded that United States law governed. The court held that plaintiff, by its own admission, had labored to create "slavish copies" of public domain works of art. While it may be assumed that this required both skill and effort, there was no spark of originality. Thus, copyright was not available in such circumstances.