No joy for Norowzian

As we predicted last year, director Mehdi Norowzian has lost his appealagainst the High Court decision in July 1998 dismissing his copyright infringement claim against Arks and Guinness.

The Court of Appeal this morning handed down its decision, the key points of which are:-

a film can be a dramatic work;
Norowzian’s film “Joy” was an original dramatic work;
BUT, the Guinness commercial did not copy any substantial part of “Joy”.

In the words of Lord Justice Nourse, “no copyright subsists in mere style or technique… If, on seeing La Baignade, Asnieres at the Salon des Artistes Independants in 1884, another artist had used precisely the same technique in painting a scene in Provence, Seurat would have been unable, by the canons of English copyright law, to maintain an action against him.”

In this case, the subject matter of the two films being very different, the similarities of style and technique were insufficient to give Norowzian a valid claim.

Today’s confirmation that films can be dramatic works will be relevant where TV commercials parody movies, a not uncommon source of inspiration for TV commercials.

The confirmation that style and technique are not copyright protected in themselves is relevant across all media.


The Norowzian Decision

Bulletins are for general guidance only. Legal advice should be sought before taking action in relation to specific matters. Where reference is made to Court decisions facts referred to are those reported as found by the Court. Please note that past bulletins included in the Archive have not been updated by any subsequent changes in statute or case law.