Thursday, September 04, 2008

Digital Car Models Not Sufficiently Creative? I Disagree.

A recent 10th Circuit case, Meshwerks v. Toyota (see case here: held that digital models of Toyota cars and trucks were not sufficiently original or creative to warrant copyright protection. The appeals panel agreed with the trial court's conclusion that the digital wire-frame models were merely copies of Toyota products. The appeals court acknowledged that digital modeling is used to create copyrightable expressions but held that the evidence in this case demonstrated that Meshwerks merely provided completely unadorned digital replicas.

My friend BobMcKain, who is a digital modeling hobbyist and is involved with Foundation3d (see e-mailed me this response to the Meshwerks case:

"We’ve been mulling this one on the forums. I can absolutely see why the design is not copyrightable but the work should be. Even though you are following a real life design no two models will ever be the same unless one person copied another person work verbatim. The reason is that pushing and pulling points and polys is an art in itself. A good example is the movie version of the StarTrek 1701-A Enterprise. There are at least a few dozen models of it out there and I have most of them. While they all represent the same ship they are all different. Each modeler has a different approach to tackling difficult transitions and shapes. So while the design is certainly copyright Paramount Pictures the work is uniquely that of the modeler. The argument is that modeling is not an art form and I think I could prove otherwise. We have many an argument on the forums over poly and point efficiencies and clean up. Some think its not important but to those of us who see it as an art form it is, in our mind, what makes it an art and not just a matter of copying what you see before you.

I hope this gets challenged because there was no effort to defend it as an art form and therefore copyrightable as such. It was merely challenged as a design issue."

I agree with Bob. A lot of creativity goes into those models, and under Feist, that should be enough. Thoughts?