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Author Topic: set designs  (Read 3375 times)

14gameshows

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set designs
« on: May 19, 2012, 07:50:25 AM »
Are set designs copyrighted?

I've been watching quite a bit of Grundy shows from Australia which were imports of our US shows and darn it if the Aussie's did their best to recreate the set (albeit on a smaller scale).  Which leads me to this question, does our American set designers get credit or some sort of royalty for their works?

Jimmy Owen

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set designs
« Reply #1 on: May 19, 2012, 08:05:18 AM »
Yes, they get paid for their designs and when there is a long credit roll, you will see their names.  Ed Flesh, Jimmy Cuomo and Ron Baldwin are three that I can think of off hand.
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14gameshows

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set designs
« Reply #2 on: May 19, 2012, 08:16:39 AM »
You also have Bente Christensen and Jack Hart

BrandonFG

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set designs
« Reply #3 on: May 19, 2012, 11:23:32 AM »
John C. Mula was also pretty prominent back in the day.

The story goes that Reg Grundy came to the US, checked himself into a hotel, and watched the American shows. He then went back Down Under and recreated the Aussie equivalents, all the way down to the sets.
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rjaguar3

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set designs
« Reply #4 on: May 19, 2012, 02:06:58 PM »
Are set designs copyrighted?

I've been watching quite a bit of Grundy shows from Australia which were imports of our US shows and darn it if the Aussie's did their best to recreate the set (albeit on a smaller scale).  Which leads me to this question, does our American set designers get credit or some sort of royalty for their works?

Not sure this is actually a settled question.  17 USC 102(a) says:
Quote
(a) Copyright protection subsists, in accordance with this title, in original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed, from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device. Works of authorship include the following categories:
(1) literary works;
(2) musical works, including any accompanying words;
(3) dramatic works, including any accompanying music;
(4) pantomimes and choreographic works;
(5) pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works;
(6) motion pictures and other audiovisual works;
(7) sound recordings; and
(8) architectural works.

The problem is it would be a long shot to classify a set or the arrangement of set pieces as a sculptural work (although decorative set pieces certainly qualify as pictorial or graphic works), especially when many set pieces simply do not qualify for copyright protection because they are useful articles (desks, chairs, tables, lecterns, etc.).

Whether a set deserves credit is a completely different issue.  Taking a Shakespeare play and passing it off as your own is not illegal, but it would be plagiarism, which violates a code among academics.  Likewise, not giving credit to an original set designer and using a set without permission may or may not be legal, but in either case, it violates a code among television producers (and possibly contractual obligations, too).

clemon79

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set designs
« Reply #5 on: May 19, 2012, 02:45:52 PM »
I think the point to take out of the OP's example is that Reg Grundy didn't much care if what he was doing was legal or not.
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gameshowcrazy

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set designs
« Reply #6 on: May 19, 2012, 03:31:41 PM »
you can't copyright an idea, but you can copyright a body of work.

The show in and of itself is copyrighted, and yes to an extent so are the sets, but if all Reg Grundy did was take the basic layout of the sets and change the color (even slightly), it would not be copyright infringement.

Sort of like the walking fingers logo of the yellow pages is copyrighted, so all generic yellow pages have lines through the fingers to avoid the copyright problem.

trainman

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set designs
« Reply #7 on: May 19, 2012, 04:46:21 PM »
Sort of like the walking fingers logo of the yellow pages is copyrighted, so all generic yellow pages have lines through the fingers to avoid the copyright problem.

Logos are trademarked, not copyrighted -- there is a difference.

However, the "walking fingers" in and of themselves are not trademarked -- they were originally created by AT&T in the early 1960s, but it allowed their free use in order to promote the Yellow Pages concept (e.g., allowing businesses to use the logo as part of urging customers to "look us up in the Yellow Pages").

The various Yellow Pages publishers, though (both "generic" and those currently published by what we used to call "the phone company"), all have their own version of the "walking fingers" logo, and those versions are trademarked by the various publishers.

Incidentally, I note that my 2012 AT&T San Fernando Valley East Yellow Pages do not have the "walking fingers" on the cover; it does have the trademarked slogan "The Real Yellow Pages" that AT&T inherited from BellSouth, as well as a plug for YP.com.
« Last Edit: May 19, 2012, 04:50:04 PM by trainman »
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clemon79

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set designs
« Reply #8 on: May 19, 2012, 05:53:34 PM »
What are these "Yellow Pages" you speak of?
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chris319

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« Reply #9 on: May 19, 2012, 07:47:00 PM »
Yes
No, they don't get a royalty because they don't own the design! They're workers for hire. They get paid for designing the set and seeing its construction through and that's it. No royalties, no residuals, nothing beyond their agreed-upon fee and a screen credit.

As to whether the set is copyrighted, that's a gray area at best. LMAD has three sliding doors, TPIR has three sliding doors. There has never been a copyright action by LMAD over TPIR's use of three sliding doors. On the other hand, we know that certain logos and other design elements are registered trademarks. If a producer or designer were daft enough to appropriate TTTT's "little man" figure, you might see some saber rattling.

http://tess2.uspto.gov/bin/showfield?f=doc&state=4005:4kltne.2.13

http://tess2.uspto.gov/bin/showfield?f=doc&state=4005:4kltne.2.18

Music is a whole different matter.