What Idea/Expression Dichotomy? Microsoft Sued For Having Sorta Similar Commercials
from the oh-come-on dept
Copyright law is supposed to have an idea/expression dichotomy, in which the copyright only covers the specific expression, and not the idea. We’re often told this when we worry about the expansion of copyright law being used to block out ideas. And yet, as we’ve explained in the past, it’s not clear there’s any real idea/expression dichotomy when it comes to copyright. That’s because, if a judge doesn’t like something, he or she will often come up with some convoluted explanation for how the “expression” covers the basic idea.
And, of course, once people begin to realize that there’s no real idea/expression dichotomy, lawsuits begin to show up pushing the boundaries even further. Take for example, this lawsuit, in which a novelty gift firm called Cellrderm has sued Microsoft and its ad agency, CP&B, for “copying” some of its commercials. You can see the four commercial below, showing the (terribly produced) Cellrderm commercials, followed by the supposedly “infringing” Microsoft version:
Microsoft, Bedroom ad:
Cellerdrm, Urinal ad:
Microsoft, Urinal ad:
The Microsoft Commercials copy both the sequence of events and the character interplay found in the Cellrderm Commercials…. The Microsoft Commercials also copy other copyrightable expression, including but not limited to clothing, gestures, character appearance, camera angles, and other visual elements from the Cellrderm Commercials.
Yes, you read that right. They’re complaining that the clothing and gestures in these commercials was copyrightable. One hopes that a judge will tell Cellrderm to stick to gag gifts, and get out of the gag lawsuit business.