Britain v Hanks Bros and Co: 1902

The plaintiff claimed copyright in a model soldier cast in metal as a statue. The defendant argued that the statute was intended to apply only to substantial works of art, such as busts, large sculptures and casts of copies of works recognised as works of art, and there was no artistic merit in the model soldiers in the sense contemplated by the Act.
Held: The first question was whether the toy representation was ‘an artistic thing – an artistic production within the Act. Being a toy was not conclusive against its being a sculpture. Wright J said: ‘It is tolerably certain that some toys would not fall within the protection of the Act; and the question whether this soldier’s or mounted yeoman’s figure comes within it must be decided upon evidence as to its artistic character. The evidence before me is all one way. A war correspondent has been called who is at the same time an artist and has shown several of these figures to be artistic productions, in that the anatomy is good, and that the modelling shows both technical knowledge and skill. I see nothing to quarrel with in that statement. On the whole, therefore, although I have great doubt as to the meaning of the Act, I am prepared to hold that the production of a metal figure of a mounted yeoman such as this is good enough to be protected by the provisions of the Act if [certain other provisions] are complied with.’


Wright J


(1902) 86 LT 765


Sculpture Copyright Act 1814


England and Wales

Cited by:

CitedLucasfilm Ltd and Others v Ainsworth and Another CA 16-Dec-2009
The claimants had made several Star Wars films for which the defendants had designed various props items. The parties disputed ownership of the rights in the designs, and in articular of a stormtrooper helmet. The issues came down to whether the . .
CitedLucasfilm Ltd and Others v Ainsworth and Another SC 27-Jul-2011
The claimant had produced the Star War films which made use of props, in particular a ‘Stormtrooper’ helmet designed by the defendant. The defendant had then himself distributed models of the designs he had created. The appellant obtained judgment . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Intellectual Property

Updated: 15 May 2022; Ref: scu.384437