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
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
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."