Posted on 4/4/2014

Wilson Gunn supports World IP Day

Saturday April 26 celebrates World IP Day with this year’s theme centred on “Movies – A Global Passion”. The World Intellectual Property Organisation designated this day to offer a unique opportunity each year to join with others around the globe to consider how intellectual property contributes to the music, arts and the technological innovation that shapes our world today. In support of World IP Day, we take a look at some interesting aspects of intellectual property in relation to the arts.

JK Rowling sold the film rights to Warner Bros

Intellectual Property rights are central to the film industry. In fact, investors will not support a film project that cannot provide an appropriate “Chain of Title” showing that the producers do in fact have the rights to produce or reproduce the material in question.  Consequently, authors can often demand large sums of money in exchange for the rights to use their material. JK Rowling reportedly sold the film rights for the first two Harry Potter films to Warner Bros for a seven figure sum. Once a film is produced, IP rights prevent third parties copying and profiting from it without the owner of the rights’ authorisation.

Copyright covers a broad spectrum in film

Copyright exists in many aspects of a film or TV programme, including the original screenplay, the soundtrack (score and lyrics), the images of the film itself, artistic contributions to the set design, sound recordings and any live performances.  The breadth of copyright in films enables right holders to profit from merchandise, sound tracks and particular images, as well as box office sales.

Harold Lloyd Entertainment recently alleged copyright infringement for 1923 film

An interesting copyright case involved Harold Lloyd Entertainment, Inc. who recently brought legal action against Cupecoy Home Fashion, Inc. [Cupecoy] for an alleged copyright infringement.  Harold Lloyd Entertainment is the owner of copyright in “Safety Last!”, a silent film of 1923 that includes the particularly iconic scene of Harold Lloyd hanging above a busy road from the hands of a large clock face.  Cupecoy are selling a wall clock that features a human figure (wearing round framed spectacles and dark clothing that resembles a suit) hanging from the minute hand.  Harold Lloyd Entertainment’s position is that Cupecoy’s clock is a reproduction of the iconic scene and constitutes copyright infringement.  A still from the film scene and the clock are both shown below. It will be interesting to see whether Harold Lloyd Entertainment’s infringement action is successful.

Image from the iconic scene from the film “Safety Last!”     Cupecoy Home Fashion, Inc.’s wall clock

Left: The iconic scene from the film “Safety Last!”        

Right: Cupecoy Home Fashion, Inc.’s wall clock

Wilson Gunn is passionate about IP

At Wilson Gunn, we are passionate about IP and, with it, we are getting into the spirit of World IP Day by helping to raise awareness of issues that businesses, inventors and creators could encounter and how they could benefit from their IP and protect their commercial assets.

For advice or information regarding copyright or any other areas of intellectual property, please contact us.

Wilson Gunn