Did Seven steal Apple’s idea for the iPod ad? Judge for yourself

Seven’s television advertisement for its TiVo digital TV recorder (click to see ad) looks very similar to Apple’s iPod advertisement (click to see ad).

The Apple ad features album cover art building up into a city before being sucked into an iPod. The TiVo ad features a similar animation, replacing cover art with TV screenshots.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Seven spokesman Simon Francis said: “Anyone knows there’s no copyright in an idea, and the TiVo television commercial is one of many out there at the moment expressing the same idea – worlds which are opened up to consumers by new technology and the information and entertainment which unfolds for them when they use that new technology.” He also said it was an independent creation by Seven’s inhouse team.

Is Francis correct? Does copyright law really allow the kind of similarity?

True, there is no copyright in an idea (worlds opening up and unfolding), but copyright protects the material expression of that idea (arguably, the use of imagery, whether cover art or screenshots, building into a city and then being sucked into a product). Not looking good for Seven.

What about the “independent creation” claim? If true, there is no infringement, because copyright only applies if there is copying, not coincidences. But the circumstances look very suspicious, especially where the original ad is a high profile one from such a well known company.

If Apple were to sue, I’d put my money on them.

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