With the sentence of December 24, 2015, the Court of Milan reiterated the principle in which legislation on copyright does not protect ideas and concepts and in particular, learning methods, as well as not protecting terminology used to describe these methods to the public.
The opportunity to reiterate this concept took place with the conclusion of the proceeding introduced by the Italian association (Associazione Italiana Ricerche Metodo Terzi), who is the owner of copyrights relating to works of Ida Terzi, an expert in the area of child education as well as the creator of a method of assistance for blind children (the so-called Terzi Method). In the proceeding, the association complained that there was evidence of plagiarism regarding several of its owner’s handouts on part of an article published in a scientific journal in same field. In particular, the association complained that the article, written by four authors (of which two belong to governing bodies in the same association as well as being co-authors of the plagiarized works) represented a borrowing of the original content of the handouts.
The Court pointed out that copyright law does not protect teachings of a technical and scientific nature that could, if possessing the requirements, eventually become subjects of copyright, such as that of a patent, whose limited duration constitutes expression of the general principle for which these teachings must enter into everyday availability so to promote the progress of science.
According to the Court, it should be mentioned that therapeutic treatment methods of the human body as well as scientific theories cannot constitute subjects of patents due to the immediate need to make them available to medical and technical personnel for the evolution of knowledge and care.
For these reasons, the Terzi Method and all the scientific concepts that underlie this method cannot be monopolized nor can they be so through authorial protection (which is much more extensive than patent protection).
For this reason, the Court examined the association’s handouts and the article of the alleged plagiarist, in order to identify whether all or part of the handouts was reproduced verbatim in the plagiarized article. Such a circumstance was not found and in light of the principle of free usability regarding scientific findings of the Terzi Method, the Court held that there was no act of plagiarism within the article, for no formal elements of the handouts belonging to the association were reproduced.
Furthermore, the Court stated that the themes covered in the article can be considered common heritage and therefore there are some expressions and definitions used to describe these topics that cannot be varied (for example, the definition of the Terzi Method as a “system of motor cognitive intervention”) and as a result, no authorial right can be claimed in this circumstance.