3D Left Shark Maker Now Lawyers Up: My Response

An update to my last two posts [backstory here] – In a letter back to Katy Perry’s lawyers, NYU law professor Chris Sprigman, now representing 3D designer Fernando Sosa, has reiterated the point that federal courts and the US Copyright Office have held costumes are generally not copyrightable. He challenges Katy Perry’s lawyer Steven Plinio to explain why Left Shark should be treated differently from the general rule. Sprigman also asks for evidence of Katy Perry’s ownership over the copyright, if it exists.

But as I explained yesterday, I don’t think determining the copyrightability of the Left Shark costume is necessarily simple. I don’t love disagreeing with Sprigman; I’m just a simple country lawyer (that country being Canada), and not an NYU law professor. So I’ll repeat my plea: can someone help me understand why Sprigman seems fairly sure about this costume, despite some seemingly on point case law (about the copyrightability of fanciful animal costumes) that cuts the other way?

Issues like this are important as 3D models become more commonly used and shared. The 3D community needs as much information as possible about what is and what is not allowed under copyright law (and IP laws generally). Where there is ambiguity, that should be made clear by lawyers working in this area so that people can better understand the risks they are taking when they upload, share and exploit 3D content.

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