Copyright is the protection of an original work produced in the field of literature, music or art. As this is the creativity of an individual mind, it deserves all efforts to keep it from being reproduced by anyone illegally. Whether it be photographs, films or simply a piece of writing, Copyright Law applies to all original works. This Law uses legal principles and rules to prevent an author’s personalized work from being copied unlawfully.
Not all works can be copyrighted, there are certain conditions. For a work to be eligible for this protection, it must be original, in a tangible form, and that the ideas must be in the form of expression.
Copyright Law is not violated every time a piece of work is copied. A good comparative study must be conducted between the original and accused work. Similarities are sorted and means of access to the original work is sought. But to prove a reproduction to be an infringement, the assessment method is quite vague. Therefore, different tests have evolved over the years to help courts make an infringement decision better like given below:
The Lay Observers’ Test is conducted with an audience comprising of ordinary people and the alleged work is presented to them for analysis. A group of reasonably sensible people chalk down the similarities in the two works and help the court in determining whether the original work has been unlawfully reproduced or not. But this test only aims at the general similarities and not the minute details. Due to this, specialized experts’ opinion may differ from that of the general public and vice versa.
The Extrinsic-Intrinsic Test is most appropriate for literary work such as books and script but can also be applied to musical compositions and artwork. It was devised by the US Court of Appeals and consists of two parts. The extrinsic test is more detailed with expert opinion and focuses on more technical areas as type of artwork involved, materials used and subject matter. Intrinsic test depends more on the decision of the general audience.
Both these tests are put together in the end to determine if a copyrighted piece has been wrongfully appropriated.
The Abstraction, Filtration and Comparison Test is third such test. Abstraction is the analysis of every step in the production of a work for the examination of similarities at each point. Filtration then eliminates unpredictable elements such as ideas, facts, public domain information and merger materials. Finally comparison decides where copyright law has been voided. The challenge faced here is demarcating that line between idea and expression as idea does not qualify for copyright while expression does. It is also hard to determine here when the idea-expression limit is crossed.
The results to such cases of violation of Copyright Law vary from product to product and depend greatly on the method of analysis applied. Decisions by general public differ from that of the experts and determining idea-expression boundary varies individually. Therefore, small changes in test methods can have big impacts on the concluding results.