Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Scenes A Faire Definition:

Elements of an original work that are so trite or common that they are not captured by copyright.

Related Terms: Copyright

An intellectual property term used in reference to copyright to exclude from copyright and prevent alleged holders of copyright from attempting to assert exclusive ownership of elements of a work that are standard, stock or common either in general or in relation to a particular topic.

Under the scènes à faire doctrine, the courts will not protect, under copyright, commonplace elements.

In Herzog, Justice Middlebrooks wrote:

"Scenes a faire, sequences of events which necessarily follow from a common theme, are not protectable.

"Incidents, characters or settings that are indispensable or standard in the treatment of a given topic are not copyrightable."

Middlebrook gave as scenes a faire examples in the context of a murder-mystery dramatic production (movie):

  • the drunk;
  • the prostitute;
  • derelict cars;
  • the Irish cop; or
  • the cop-and-robber foot chase.

In Evans v Wallace Berrie & Co., further examples were given in the context of a dramatic work on the topic of a fictional underwater civilization:

  • using a sand dollar for currency;
  • seahorses for transportation; and
  • places made of oysters.

REFERENCES:

  • Duhaime, Lloyd, Copyright Law
  • Duhaime, Lloyd, Intellectual and Internet Law
  • Evans v Wallace Berrie & Co. 681 F. Supp. 813 (1988)
  • Herzog v Castle Rock Entertainment 193 F. 3d 1241 (US Court of Appeals, 1th Circuit, 1999), affirming the opinion of Florida district court judge Middlebrooks.

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