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19 June 2020

The Basis for Originality in Photographs

Woo Jian Ming, Shaun

Published on e-First 19 June 2020

Although photographs are artistic works, locating originality in this category of works has proved problematic for copyright systems due to the verisimilitude of photographs and the mechanical nature of photography. Divergent approaches have thus been adopted in the US and under UK common law. In 2017, the Ninth Circuit likened photographs to factual compilations, holding that it was the selection and arrangement of the individual elements of a photograph which, if sufficiently original, were protected by copyright. This article examines the different approaches adopted in the UK and US and their respective doctrinal underpinnings, and considers the way ahead for Singapore law.