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17.18 Substantial Similarity—Extrinsic Test; Intrinsic Test

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This chapter is being reviewed in light of comments solicited by the Committee from the public.



The Committee recommends that the court and counsel specifically craft instructions on substantial similarity based on the particular work(s) at issue, the copyright in question, and the evidence developed at trial. The following cases may provide guidance in formulating substantial similarity instructions in specific subject areas: 

Literary or Dramatic Works: Shaw v. Lindheim, 919 F.2d 1353, 1357 (9th Cir.1990) (involving literary or dramatic works); Sid & Marty Krofft Television Prods. v. McDonald’s Corp., 562 F.2d 1157, 1164 (9th Cir.1977) (holding that commercials infringed television production; applying specific criteria to assessment of substantial similarity); see also Metcalf v. Bochco, 294 F.3d 1069, 1073-74 (9th Cir.2002) (applying Shaw factors applied to screenplay for television show); Pasillas v. McDonald’s Corp., 927 F.2d 440, 442-43 (9th Cir.1991) (noting that Shaw "is explicitly limited to literary works" and Krofft test is still applicable to other than dramatic or literary works). 

Musical Compositions: Swirsky v. Carey, 376 F.3d 841, 848-49 (9th Cir.2004) (noting factors and constituent elements applicable to "analyzing musical compositions," while noting that Ninth Circuit has "never announced a uniform set of factors" because "each allegation of infringement will be unique"); Newton v. Diamond, 388 F.3d 1189, 1196 (9th Cir.2003) (noting musical elements); Three Boys Music Corp. v. Bolton, 212 F.3d 477, 485-86 (9th Cir.2000) (identifying "areas" of similarity of musical works). 

Computer Programs and Similar Technologies: Apple Computer, Inc. v. Microsoft Corp., 35 F.3d 1435, 1445 (9th Cir.1994) (involving audiovisual and literary component of computer program); Brown Bag Software v. Symantec Corp., 960 F.2d 1465, 1477 (9th Cir.1992) ("computer programs are subject to a Shawtype analytic dissection of various standard components, e.g., screens, menus, and keystrokes"); Data E. USA, Inc. v. Epyx, Inc., 862 F.2d 204, 210 (9th Cir.1988) (involving home-computer karate game); Frybarger v. Int’l Bus. Mach. Corp., 812 F.2d 525, 529–30 (9th Cir.1987) (involving video game). 

Motion Picture, Television Production, or Copyrighted Script: Benay v. Warner Bros. Entm’t, Inc., 607 F.3d 620, 624-29 (2010) (involving movie and screenplay); Funky Films, Inc. v. Time Warner Entm’t Co., L.P., 462 F.3d 1072, 1076-77 (9th Cir.2006) (involving screenplay and television series); Rice v. Fox Broad. Co., 330 F.3d 1170, 1177-78 (9th Cir.2003) (involving video and television specials); Metcalf v. Bochco, 294 F.3d 1069 (9th Cir.2002) (involving screenplay and television series); Berkic v. Crichton, 761 F.2d 1289, 1293 (9th Cir.1985) (involving novel and motion picture); Litchfield v. Spielberg, 736 F.2d 1352, 1356-57 (9th Cir.1984) (involving musical play and movie). 

"Other Than Dramatic or Literary Works": L.A. Printex Indus., Inc. v. Aeropostale, Inc., 676 F.3d 841, 848-52 (9th Cir.2012) (involving floral-pattern-printed fabric); Mattel, Inc. v. MGA Entm’t, Inc., 616 F.3d 904, 913-14 (9th Cir.2010) (involving toy dolls); Cavalier v. Random House, Inc., 297 F.3d 815, 826 (9th Cir.2002) (involving works of visual art); Sid & Marty Krofft Television Prods., 562 F.2d at 1164 (providing dicta concerning application of specific criteria to plaster recreation of nude human figure); Pasillas, 927 F.2d at 442–43 (noting Krofft test applicable to other than dramatic or literary works; using test to assess similarity of Halloween mask and mask used in television commercial). 

"Ordinary Observer" Test: Micro Star v. Formgen, Inc., 154 F.3d 1107, 1112 (9th Cir.1998) (applying ordinary reasonable person standard); see also L.A. Printex Indus., Inc., 676 F.3d at 852 (involving fabric designs); Johnson Controls Inc. v. Phoenix Control Sys., 886 F.2d 1173, 1176 n.4 (9th Cir.1989) (involving computer software); Data E. USA, Inc., 862 F.2d at 209-10 (discussing intended audience); Aliotti v. R. Dakin & Co., 831 F.2d 898, 902 (9th Cir.1987) (involving perception of children); Berkic, 761 F.2d at 1293 (discussing reasonable reader or moviegoer)