Astrid Bovell on June 16th, 2014
We often highlight the importance of what copyright protects, but we don’t often talk about the things that copyright doesn’t protect. From time to time, we receive calls from people asking us for help or advice either because someone has “stolen” their idea, or because they’re afraid that someone will “steal” their idea. The problem with these situations is that copyright doesn’t protect everything – in particular, copyright does not protect ideas – only how they are expressed in “material form”. This means that two people can have the same idea and so long as they have expressed their idea differently (think Armageddon vs. Deep Impact), copyright is not infringed. In particular, copyright is often ruled not to subsist in expressions of ideas that are common or generic.
Today I came across this article from Techdirt “Judge Reminds Vexatious Human Being That Ideas — Even Techno-Dragons With Guns — Are Not Protected By Copyright” and aside from it being some entertaining weekend reading on a copyright related issue, it does provide a pretty solid example of where a similarity in expression does not constitute an infringement of copyright.