Art style

Sony’s attempt to patent art style endangers expression – The Reflector

“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” captivated audiences upon its release, grossing $ 35 million in domestic revenue in its opening weekend, according to Mojo ticket office, and currently hosts 97% on Rotten Tomatoes and 8.7 out of 10 on IMDb. So there is no doubt about the success of the film, and having seen the film personally, I can say that it certainly deserves its success. It’s funny, well written and every second is a visual spectacle.

The animation style mixing modern techniques with techniques that pay homage to classic comics is simply stunning, and I’m not the only one who agrees. Rolling Stone, Wall Street Journal, Vanity Fair, and the New York Times all compliment the visuals of the film, and “Spider-Verse” even earned an Oscar nomination for best animated feature.

It is therefore not surprising that Sony is now attempting to patent the aids used to animate the film. Deadline Hollywood provides a brief summary of what Sony is trying to protect with its app, listing several different new technologies the company has invented in its article. “Sony is being inventive and seeking patents for ‘Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse’ animation technology.”

One of these technologies can place dots and lines on certain surfaces to give the scene similar shading to old comics. Another is software that allows you to digitally draw on three-dimensional surfaces (which function as skeletons) and then the animator can move and adjust these drawings as if they were also three-dimensional. Finally, Sony has created an artificial intelligence capable of predicting where the lines will be on the next animated frame.

With these parts of the application, it looks like any other patent; the team behind “Spider-Verse” invented these technologies and are trying to protect them from public use (after all, they are their inventions). There’s no problem, for me it’s just a business which is a business.

However, there is another aspect of the app that is an outlier. Sony is also trying to patent what it calls “stylized abstractions of reality”.

Deadline Hollywood defines them as “[Images] built with shading tools that create the illusion of depth on a flat surface, emulating the interior volumes of buildings and graphic reflections illustrated.

Essentially, this is the specific type of shading, colors, and lighting that the animation team used to make everything look three-dimensional. What’s important about this installment of the patent is that it’s not the tools that are protected here, it’s the styling. This is what art looks like which is also patented.

According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office, an artistic style can be patented under a non-provisional design patent because it is technically a process. It is therefore legal for Sony to patent their technique.

I’m going to choose to watch this with optimism because I really want to like Sony because they made such a great movie and recently seemed to have a better understanding of their audience, and maybe that’s just the result of the enthusiasm of the team after creating so much and investing so much time. Patenting an artistic style is such an obstacle to freedom of expression. Anyone who creates a work that even remotely resembles the art featured in “Spider-Verse” should pay Sony the necessary fees.

Considering in particular that the specific part of the patented style is the appearance of shading and lighting, a lot of artwork might unintentionally fall into this category. Many fans also enjoy creating artwork inspired by the media they enjoy. Therefore, people who want to draw artwork inspired by the movie or its characters should donate money to Sony to create their own work. So at the end of the day, all we can do, as normal people, is do as much art as we can right now, until big business stops us.