Steinberg v. Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.
663 F.Supp. 706 (S.D.N.Y. 1987)

  • Steinberg drew an illustration of New York City that was featured on the cover of a magazine. Columbia used a very similar-looking illustration of New York City in a promotional poster for a movie. Steinberg sued for copyright infringement.
    • Columbia admitted that they had used Steinberg's illustration as a basis for their poster. However, they argued that they were dissimilar enough that it wasn't an infringement.
      • Columbia argued that they merely copied Steinberg's idea, not his expression, and ideas cannot be the basis of copyright protection.
  • The Trial Court found for Steinberg.
    • The Trial Court found that the two works were substantially similar.
      • The Court looked at a number of properties of the two illustrations and found that they both had certain things in common which were not common among other illustrations of New York.
    • The Court defined substantially similar to be "whether the average lay observer would recognize the alleged copy as having been appropriated from the copyrighted work."