Originality is key to securing copyright protection over a work. This is true for literary works, sculptures, paintings, music and all varieties of creative output. While this may seem obvious, in truth it’s a gray area. Here are a few examples:
- TELEPHONE DIRECTORY, WHITE PAGES: not original; therefore, no copyright protection.
- PHOTOGRAPH OF AN ARMFUL OF PUPPIES: is original; therefore, making a sculpture that is a deliberate copy of the photograph is a copyright violation.
- A PAINTING: is original; however, making an engraving of the painting is not a copyright violation because of the engravers artistic use of light, shade, lines and dots.
MARDI GRAS INDIAN COSTUMES: possibly original works of sculpture. At present the Mardi Gras Indians are seeking copyright projection for their elaborate costumes as works of sculpture.
What does this mean? For the Mardi Gras Indians it will mean that photo releases, licenses and fees will need to be paid to the Indian sculptors before others copy, reproduce and sell their images as photographs, fine art, in calendars or on t-shirts.
BY: Vanessa Kaster, Esq., LL.M.