La Court of Appeal inglese sulla creatività come artistic work di una graphic user interface

Si reclama il diritto di autore sul lavoro grafico sottostante (GUIs: graphical user interfaces), creato tramite uso di un software:

La corte di appello 20.11.2023, [2023] EWCA Civ 1354 – Case No: CA-2023-000920, THJ SYSTEMS LIMITED – OPTIONNET LLP Claimants copntro DANIEL SHERIDAN-SHERIDAN OPTIONS MENTORING CORPORATION ravvisa la creatività.

La ravvisa non però secondo la tradizionale concezione inglese dello “skill and labour” , come aveva fatto il giudice in primo grado: << I am satisfied that the work of creating the look and functionality of interface including the arrangements of the tables and graphs did involve the exercise of sufficient skill and labour for the result to amount to an artistic work>>. § 21

La ravvisa invece secondo il concetto del diritto UE , elaborato dalla sentenza Infopaq del 2009 da parte della Corte di Giustizia (<< “… original in the sense that it is its author’s own intellectual creation”>>, § 15):

<<23 In my judgment the Defendants are right that the judge did not apply the correct test, which I have set out in paragraph 16 above. This is not because of his reference to “functionality” in [214], which appears to be a slip of the pen having regard to what he went on to say in the last sentence of [215]. It is because the test he applied was that of “skill and labour”, which was the test applied by the English courts prior to Infopaq, including in Navitaire Inc v easyJet Airline Co Ltd [2004] EWHC 1725 (Ch), [2006] RPC 3 and Nova Productions Ltd v Mazooma Games Ltd [2006] EWHC 24 (Ch), [2006] RPC 14, and not the test of “author’s own intellectual creation” laid down by the Court of Justice. As can be seen from cases such as Football Dataco and Funke Medien, these two tests are not the same, and the European test is more demanding; although Painer establishes that even a simple portrait photograph may satisfy it in an appropriate case. In fairness to the judge, I should make it clear that he was not referred to any of the relevant case law on this question (although the Defendants cited BSA, they did so in relation to a different issue).

It follows that this Court must re-assess the originality of the R & P Charts applying the correct test. Before turning to consider the evidence, it is important to make five points. First, the test is an objective one. Secondly, the test is not one of artistic merit: section 4(1)(a) of the 1988 Act expressly provides that graphic works qualify as artistic works “irrespective of artistic quality”, and nothing in the case law of the CJEU suggests otherwise. Thirdly, the burden of proof lies on the Claimants. Fourthly, particularly given that we are concerned with graphic works, a key item of evidence is the works themselves. Fifthly, as counsel for the Defendants rightly emphasised, the functionality of the Software is irrelevant to this question. The enquiry concerns the visual appearance of the R & P Charts. Given the informative purpose of the R & P Charts, the visual appearance is primarily a matter of the layout of the R & P Charts.

It can be seen from the example of the R & P Charts reproduced above, particularly when enlarged, that the various component parts of the image have been laid out with some care. Mr Mitchell has designed the display so as to cram quite a large amount of information into a single screen. Moreover, he has made choices as to what to put where, including such matters as which commands to put into the ribbon and in what order. He also selected what fonts and colours to use.

When one turns to Mr Mitchell’s evidence, his statement that “the look and feel of it is my brainchild” was not challenged. Nor were his statements that “[e]verything is original” and “everything on there is my design” because, although he had sourced components from a library, he had put them “into various locations”. The cross-examiner used the analogy of building something from Lego bricks, and in my view the analogy is a good one. As the Court of Justice held in BSA at [48], “the national court must take account, inter alia, of the specific arrangement or configuration of all the components which form part of the graphic user interface”. Mr Mitchell did not enlarge upon the choices he had made, but he was not asked about this. Nor was it put to Mr Mitchell that the visual appearance of the R & P Charts was dictated by technical considerations, rules or other constraints which left no room for creative freedom. Nor did the Defendants adduce any evidence to contradict Mr Mitchell’s evidence, such as similar graphical user interfaces produced by third parties. As the judge observed, the evidence was limited, but nevertheless it was all one way.

It is plain that the degree of visual creativity which went into the R & P Charts was low. But that does not mean that there was no creativity at all. The consequence of the low degree of creativity is that the scope of protection conferred by copyright in the R & P Charts is correspondingly narrow, so that only a close copy would infringe: see Infopaq at [45]-[48]. (It is sometimes suggested that Painer at [95]-[98] is authority to the contrary, but all that passage establishes is that the protection conferred by copyright on portrait photographs as a category is not inferior to that enjoyed by other categories of works, including other kinds of photographs.) It does not mean that the R & P Charts are not protected by copyright at all, which would have the consequence that even an identical copy would not infringe.

I therefore conclude that, even though the judge applied the wrong test, he was correct to find that the R & P Charts were original. I would therefore dismiss the Defendants’ appeal, save that I would restrict the declaration made by the judge to the R & P Charts>>.

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