Commons:Threshold of originality

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The logo of Boeing is not considered a "work of authorship" because it only consists of text in a simple typeface, so it is not an object of copyright in respect to US law. However, this logo is still protected by trademark laws.

The threshold of originality is a concept in copyright law that is used to assess whether or not a particular work, or a portion of it, can be copyrighted. It is used to distinguish works that are sufficiently original to warrant copyright protection from those that are not. In this context, "originality" refers to "coming from someone as the originator/author" (insofar as it somehow reflects the author's personality), rather than "never having occurred or existed before" (which would amount to the protection of something new, as in patent protection).

For further information, see Threshold of originality on Wikipedia

Official decisions[edit]

Deutsch: Bilder, bei denen durch einen Gerichtsbeschluss oder eine vergleichbare Instanz festgestellt worden ist, dass sie wegen einer zu niedrigen Gestaltungshöhe keinen urheberrechtlichen Schutz genießen. Siehe Schöpfungshöhe.
English: Images judged ineligible for copyright protection by a court or similar authority. The last section contains selected images that may or may not be eligible for copyright protection.
Español: Imágenes juzgadas elegibles para la protección de los derechos de autor por un tribunal u otra autoridad similar. La última sección contiene las imágenes seleccionadas que pueden o no pueden ser elegibles para la protección de los derechos de autor.
Français : Images qui, conformément à une décision prononcée par un tribunal ou autre autorité similaire, ne peuvent pas bénéficier d'une protection par le droit d'auteur. La dernière section contient une sélection d'images qui pourraient (ou non) bénéficier d'une protection par le droit d'auteur.
Italiano: Immagini giudicate come non soggette a diritto d'autore da un tribunale o da un'autorità analoga. La sezione in fondo contiene una selezione di immagini che possono o non possono essere considerate sottoposte a diritto d'autore.

United States[edit]

These images are ✓OK to upload to Commons, because they are below the threshold of originality required for copyright protection.
These are X mark.svg Not OK to upload to Commons (unless published under a free license by the copyright holder), because they are above the threshold of originality required for copyright protection.
  • These two no soliciting signs, although arguably relatively simple, have been issued copyright registration numbers by the United States Copyright Office, which means that they have been reviewed and determined to be eligible for copyright protection. It should be noted that the copyright registration applies to the images as a whole, including their borders.
  • A variant of File:CarCreditCity.png with an extra border[5]
  • Disney Junior logo (VAu001043271).
  • w:File:Prince logo.svg (VA0000832222).
  • Works from other countries which are above the threshold of originality of the United States but below the threshold of originality of the source country (Hasbro Bradley, Inc. v. Sparkle Toys, Inc.)
  • New "pan and scan" versions of films where a widescreen film has been resized to fit the size of a TV screen even if the existing widescreen film is uncopyrighted (Maljack Productions, Inc. v. UAV Corp.)[1]

Civil law countries[edit]

Civil law countries require a relatively high minimum level of intellectual creativity which will exclude typical signatures and simple logos from copyright protection.

If you are aware of specific caselaw or legal advice on this issue in any country, please add an entry below.

Austria[edit]

These logos are X mark.svg Not OK:

Chile[edit]

The phrase "Estamos bien en el refugio los 33", a message from the Copiapó miners (penned by Jose Ojeda), was copyrighted (source).

China (PRC)[edit]

This image is X mark.svg Not OK:

Colombia[edit]

Is ✓OK:

  • To be protected as an industrial design must be apparent to the eye. Para ser protegido como diseño industrial debe ser perceptible a la vista [6].
  • Names of newspapers, magazines, radio and television and other media does not give rise to copyright.Los nombres de periódicos, revistas, programas de radio y televisión y de los demás medios de comunicación no dan lugar a derechos de autor
  • The publication is free portrait as it relates to scientific, educational or cultural in general or with facts or events of public interest or have been occurred in public. La publicación del retrato es libre cuando se relaciona con fines científicos, didácticos o culturales en general o con hechos o acontecimientos de interés público o que se hubieren desarrollado en público.
  • Tender is the reproduction, by any means, of a literary or scientific, ordered or obtained by the applicant in a single copy for private use and non-profit work.Es licita la reproducción, por cualquier medio, de una obra literaria o científica, ordenada u obtenida por el interesado en un solo ejemplar para su uso privado y sin fines de lucro.
  • It will be reproduced by means of painting, drawing, photography or cinematography, works which are permanently located on public roads, streets or places and to distribute and publicly communicate such copies or works.Será permitido reproducir por medio de pinturas, dibujos, fotografías o películas cinematográficas, las obras que estén colocadas de modo permanente en vías públicas, calles o plazas y distribuir y comunicar públicamente dichas reproducciones u obras[7].

Denmark[edit]

Not protected[edit]
Protected[edit]

Finland[edit]

France[edit]

Unlike the "creativity" doctrine in the US and Germany, or the "sweat of the brow" doctrine in the UK, French law asserts that a work is copyrightable when it bears the "imprint of the personality of the author."[2] In practice, it depends on the work in question, but this has left the bar quite low for many works where an artistic intent can be shown. For an art exhibition, a man placed the word paradis with gold lettering above the bathroom door of the old dormitory of alcoholics at a psychiatric facility, and termed it artwork; the French courts agreed with him that it was copyrightable based on the aesthetic choices made ("affixing the word 'paradise' in gold with patina effect and a special graphics on dilapidated door, the lock-shaped cross, encased in a crumbling wall with peeling paint"). (Direct link to the work in question)

These are X mark.svg Not OK:

Germany[edit]

Not protected[edit]

German copyright law: see also[3]

Hungary[edit]

Protected[edit]

Japan[edit]

Logos in the gallery below are ✓OK to upload. Article 2 of Japanese copyright law defines that a work is eligible for copyright when it is a production in which thoughts or sentiments are expressed in a creative way and which falls within the literary, scientific, artistic or musical domain. [8][9] Japanese courts have decided that to be copyrightable, a text logo needs to have artistic appearance that is worth artistic appreciation. Logos composed merely of geometric shapes and texts are also not copyrightable in general.

Norway[edit]

Not protected[edit]

Two-minute theatre play

Protected[edit]

Peru[edit]

The general definition of a "work" in Art. 2.17 of the 1996 law is work: any personal and original intellectual creation.[4]

Simple photographs have a copyright term of 70 years counted from the first of January of the year following that of the taking of the photograph (Art. 144).[4] Simple photographs are those which fail to meet the general definition of a "work".

Sweden[edit]

Not protected[edit]
Protected[edit]

Switzerland[edit]

The Netherlands[edit]

Simple logos are okay in the Netherlands but not all logos are. If something is above the threshold of originality in the Netherlands is defined in the Supreme Court judgment "'Van Dale/Romme'" (HR 04-01-1991, NJ 1991, 608). In this judgment, the Supreme Court (Hoge Raad) ruled that:

Bij de beoordeling van het middel moet worden vooropgesteld dat, wil een voortbrengsel kunnen worden beschouwd als een werk van letterkunde, wetenschap of kunst als bedoeld in art. 1 in verbinding met art. 10 Aw, vereist is dat het een eigen, oorspronkelijk karakter heeft en het persoonlijk stempel van de maker draagt.

In English:

In assessing the ground of cassation it should be noted that, for a product to be considered a work of literature, science or art as meant in article 1 in conjunction with article 10 of the Copyright law (Auteurswet), it is required that it has an own, original character and bears the personal mark of the maker.

This was further specified in the Supreme Court judgment ''Endstra-tapes' (NJ 2008, 556):

[D]at het voortbrengsel een eigen, oorspronkelijk karakter moet bezitten, houdt, kort gezegd, in dat de vorm niet ontleend mag zijn aan die van een ander werk (vgl. art. 13 Aw). De eis dat het voortbrengsel het persoonlijk stempel van de maker moet dragen betekent dat sprake moet zijn van een vorm die het resultaat is van scheppende menselijke arbeid en dus van creatieve keuzes, en die aldus voortbrengsel is van de menselijke geest. Daarbuiten valt in elk geval al hetgeen een vorm heeft die zo banaal of triviaal is, dat daarachter geen creatieve arbeid van welke aard ook valt te aan te wijzen.

In English:

The product has to bear an own, original character. In short, the work may not be a based on another work. (cf. article 13 Aw.) The demand is that the product contains creative elements of the maker. This means that the product must be the result of human labor where creative choices are made which are products of the human mind. Excluded from this are products with trivial or banal forms that it contains no creative elements

Later the Supreme Court determined in judgment 'Stokke/Fikszo' that:

Om voor auteursrechtelijke bescherming in aanmerking te komen, is vereist dat het desbetreffende werk een eigen, oorspronkelijk karakter heeft en het persoonlijk stempel van de maker draagt (vgl. HR 30 mei 2008, LJN BC2153, NJ 2008/556 (E)). Het HvJEU heeft de maatstaf aldus geformuleerd dat het moet gaan om "een eigen intellectuele schepping van de auteur van het werk" (HvJEU 16 juli 2009, nr. C-5/08, LJN BJ3749, NJ 2011/288 (Infopaq I)).

In English:

For a work to be eligible for copyright it is necessary that the work has an own original character and shows creative elements brought on by the maker (vgl. HR 30 mei 2008, LJN BC2153, NJ 2008/556 (E)). The Court of Justice of the European Union has defined that the work must be: "A own, intellectual creation of the author of the work". CJEU 16 July 2009, nr. C-5/08, LJN BJ3749, NJ 2011/288 (Infopaq I)).

¨

Common law countries[edit]

Most Common law countries use a "skill and labour" test to determine the minimum level of originality capable of attracting copyright protection, and in some countries such as the UK the required level is extremely low. Without some research into individual laws, it cannot be assumed that a text logo from a Common law country is necessarily allowed on Commons. If there is real doubt about the position a local court would take, then the image must be deleted under the precautionary principle.

If the logo is extremely simple (e.g. in a standard font), it will not be eligible for copyright even in Common law countries.

If you are aware of specific caselaw or legal advice on this issue in any country, please add an entry below.

Australia[edit]

X mark.svg Not OK for most logos. The level of originality required for copyright protection in Australia is very low.

These images are eligible for copyright protection:

Canada[edit]

✓OK for most logos.

Unlike other common law countries, Canada's threshold of originality veers closer to that of the United States. CCH Canadian Ltd. v. Law Society of Upper Canada explicitly rejected the "sweat of the brow" doctrine for being too low of a standard, but at the same time, stated that the creativity standards for originality were too high:

A creativity standard implies that something must be novel or non-obvious — concepts more properly associated with patent law than copyright law. And for these reasons, I conclude that an “original” work under the Copyright Act is one that originates from an author and is not copied from another work. That alone, however, is not sufficient to find that something is original. In addition, an original work must be the product of an author’s exercise of skill and judgment. The exercise of skill and judgment required to produce the work must not be so trivial that it could be characterized as a purely mechanical exercise."

Israel[edit]

Although Israel historically used a "skill and labour" test similar to that used by the UK, since the 1989 Israeli Supreme Court's ruling in Interlego A/S v. Exin-Lines Bros. SA they have tended fairly close to a US-style requirement equating originality with human creativity (see [13] for a 2007 paper on this shift; or see [14], which notes that "In Israel, the Supreme Court in the Interlego A/S v. Exin-Lines Bros. SA decision adopted the Feist ruling with regards to both the interpretation of the originality requirement and the general rejection of the ‘sweat of the brow’ doctrine and the labour theory as a legitimate interest for establishing a copyright claim.").

United Kingdom[edit]

✓OK Lego bricks (see w:Interlego v Tyco Industries)

X mark.svg Not OK for most logos. The level of originality required for copyright protection in the United Kingdom is very low.

These images are eligible for copyright protection:

Commons decisions[edit]

See Category:Threshold of originality related deletion requests

Logos and flags[edit]

Architecture[edit]

Images which have been kept because of lack of originality or de minimis:

Photographs[edit]

Photographs which have been deemed ineligible for copyright protection:

Partial copying or cropping of copyrighted works[edit]

When a file copies only part of a copyrighted work, that file's copyright status is determined only by what it has copied. If it only copied uncopyrightable elements, then the file is also uncopyrightable. In other words, we judge the copyright status of a file only by what the file itself contains, not by the status of other content the original source contained that was not copied by the file.

References[edit]

  1. Fishman, Stephen () The Public Domain: How to Find & Use Copyright-Free Writings, Music, Art & More, Nolo, p. 183 Retrieved on . ISBN: 1413320287.
  2. http://m2bde.u-paris10.fr/content/le-concept-d%E2%80%99originalit%C3%A9-dans-la-l%C3%A9gislation-fran%C3%A7aise-du-droit-d%E2%80%99auteur-et-dans-celle-du-co
  3. Schack, Haimo (in german) Urheber- und Urhebervertragsrecht, pp. 118
  4. a b Peruvian copyright law of April 23, 1996

See also[edit]