The protection of a commissioned rendering: the decision of the court of Florence

The Court of Florence with ruling no. 935 of March 27th 2023, gave and important decision on copyright infringement and protection of a rendering.

A rendering is the process of generating an image or animation on the basis of a starting model, through the use of a specialized software. According to the constant case law, these types of elaboration fall into the definition of work of figurative art, pursuant to law no. 633/1941 (Italian Copyright Law), if and as characterized by creativity and originality.

Rendering: the case 

Company A commissioned the rendering service to company B without signing a proper contract. The two companies merely signed a deal which mutually bind them to confidentiality and non-disclosure of the information exchanged under the requested service.

Company A sued Company B for using on its own website the render images for which creation the plaintiff had provided data, material and information. The plaintiff asked the Court to determine the infringement of the patrimonial copyright on the images in question pursuant to art. 12 of the Italian Copyright Law and to order the defendant the termination of the reproduction and the use of the same, in any way and form.

On the other hand, Company B contested what stated by the plaintiff mainly by saying that Company A had published the commissioned images without express mention of the author of the work, invoking the moral right of the author under Article 20 of the Italian Copyright Law (so-called usurpation of authorship).

The decision of the Court

According to art. 12 of the Italian Copyright Law, the holder of the right of economic exploitation has the exclusive right to publish the images and to prevent others to do so, as well as the exclusive right to economically use the work in any form and way.

For the purpose of the decision, the court recalled the constant case law regarding the commission contract, which recognizes the ownership of the rights of economic exploitation of the work to the client unless expressly agreed otherwise between the parties.

In the case under exam, therefore, such right would belong exclusively to the plaintiff, which did not authorize in any way the defendant to use the render images.

Any will of the parties aimed at authorizing the use by the defendant of the images at issue could not be assumed. As a matter of fact, the only signed deal seems to be the non-disclosure agreement which did only establish for the parties the obligation to not disclose information relating to the commissioned services, as well as the commitment of the defendant to return it to the counterpart, confirm its destruction or permanent cancellation.

Regarding Company A’s failure to mention Company B in connection with the disputed images, the Court followed the prevailing case law, which affirms that the mere omission of the author’s name in the work does not constitute in itself an infringement of the copyright on the work itself. As a matter of facts, this occurs only when the omission is accompanied by the false attribution of the work to others.

In the case at issue, the works created by Company B under commission of Company A are rendering intended to be published on physical or digital devices for promotional purposes. In this regard the Court found that, for aesthetic reason, it is commonly known that this type of material is not published with the indication of the author’s name. Therefore, the lack of indication by Company A of the work’s author (company B) on the images at issue is legitimate.

In light of what mentioned above, the Court of Florence partially accepted Company A request by essentially declaring that there was infringement of the relevant patrimonial copyright, pursuant to Article 12 of the Italian Copyright Law, in relation to images object of the rendering on commission. Moreover, it established the ban for company B to reproduce and use the images at issue, in any capacity, by ordering the removal of the render of company A’s products from any type of material of the defendant.

Elena Bandinelli