This Note argues that courts’ emphasis on the ordinary observer test to prove illicit copying in film is misguided. The ordinary observer test relies on whether the accused work captures the total feel of the copyrighted work, but overlooks an essential aspect of unlawful appropriation and copyright law – the idea that only particular elements of a work are copyrightable. If a jury is exposed to expert testimony regarding probative similarity before making their evaluation, it is unlikely they will forget such evidence when evaluating the illicit copying.
A better test for infringement would be one that allows the ordinary observer, representative of the intended audience, to detect whether there is a similarity in the works, exclusive of an expert’s opinion. The focus should then shift to the more complicated issue of unlawful appropriation by permitting the inclusion of analytic dissection and expert testimony.
The Copyright Infringement Test: A New Approach to Literary Misappropriation in Film,
4 Pace. Intell. Prop. Sports & Ent. L.F.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.pace.edu/pipself/vol4/iss2/8