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?


Blogger David said...

I agree that digital models should be copyrightable, and under Feist they seem to definitely reach that minimum threshold of creativity. But also I think here the court somewhat sloppily reached the right decision. By analogy, while there might be creativity involved in reshooting, line-for-line, an entire scene of Star Wars, you wouldn't want the reshoot to have its own copyright - the creativity is not manifest in the work itself.

I also think the decision gives short shrift to the derivative work aspect of the case. It seems a better analysis would have been to describe it as an insufficiently different derivative work.

I'm also surprised that the work-for-hire doctrine didn't come into play. It seems like the models would be a commissioned work that is supplementary or contribution to a collective work (and therefore work-for-hire). The collective work here would be the final advertisements, I suppose.

11:54 PM  
Anonymous Jim said...

I realize that music sampling has a long legal history and unfortunately I don't know that history, but I was struck at how the subject could be extended to music sampling. Some might argue that sampling is an art form such that, to paraphrase Mr McKain - "Each sampler has a different approach to tackling difficult transitions and sounds. So while the song is certainly copyright... the work is uniquely that of the sampler." and that the sampler works at "efficiencies and clean up".
As we learned in college, art and literary history is chock full of those arguments of originality and creativity.

2:34 PM  
Blogger mb said...

sorry, I am new to the topic of IP, so I might be asking a stupid question: if there is no copyright on wireframes, does this mean, that one can copy/distribute wireframes made availabe as libraries?
surely their effort must be protected under some type of law?

9:32 AM  

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