COPYRIGHT IDEA/EXPRESSION: TOWARD A BRIGHTER LINE?

A recent decision from the District of Connecticut in Scholz Design v. Sard Custom Homes holds that for architect to sue successfully for infringement of his drawing, the copied drawing must convey sufficient information to allow construction of the building depicted. In Scholz Design Because the allegedly copied drawings were not sufficiently detailed to enable one to construct a building using them, the court dismissed the copyright claims.

Of all the tricky issues in copyright law, one of the trickiest is distinguishing between idea and expression. Copyright law prohibits copying the expression but permits copying the idea. Determining where to draw the line between the two often involves a close judgment call. The Scholz Design decision arguably makes the call easier in the context of architectural works, because it offers a clear standard: information sufficient to allow construction. Copyright jurisprudence has, however, generally rejected such strict rules. It remains to be seen whether the Scholz Design decision signals a shift in the paradigm.
 

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