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Software Generated GUIs Protected by Copyright as Artistic Works


March 11, 2024

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A recent decision of the U.K. Court of Appeal supports the notion that a graphic user interface (GUI) produced by software can validly form the subject of copyright.


In THJ Systems Ltd & Anor v. Sheridan [2023] EWCA Civ 1354, the Court considered the merits of a software developer’s argument that the “risk and price chart” graphical displays produced by his computer program were in fact original artistic works protected by copyright law.


At trial, the judge accepted the plaintiff software developer’s evidence that the operation of the software was analogous to a video game. The plaintiff successfully argued that, similar to a videogame, the software performs a series of complex calculations, which produce computer generated original images that courts have long held can be protected by copyright. The originality of the images derived from the fact that they were based on components (e.g., line types, colours, layouts etc.) designed and organized by the developer. Accordingly, they were found to be artistic works protected by copyright.


In upholding the decision on appeal, Lord Justice Arnold observed that the low level of creativity generated by the program did not mean that copyright protection was non-existent. Rather, it simply meant that the scope of copyright protection would be narrow.

 

Authors: Roy Friedman and Arash Rouhi

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