On the Designers Guild case, the importance of the ‘independent creation’ defence, and the proper placement and function of the idea/expression dichotomy in UK copyright

When does copyright law permit an artist to be inspired by a predecessor? And to what extent can that at artist be allowed to study and copy elements of his predecessor’s work? Can he copy certain techniques or motifs, structural composition and lighting or relief effects?

These were the questions before the House of Lord in the landmark case of Designers Guild v Williams,[1] the go to legal authority on the function of copyright’s ‘inference of copying’, ‘idea/expression dichotomy’ and ‘substantial part’ tests in the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, the judgement is unclear without a close and rigours reading. Many of the finer points are given little elaboration by the Law Lord and, on other points, the judgements are contradictory. This short piece attempts to breathe a sense of cohesion into the logic of the judgement. Continue reading “On the Designers Guild case, the importance of the ‘independent creation’ defence, and the proper placement and function of the idea/expression dichotomy in UK copyright”

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