Can You Copyright an Idea Or Concept?
For example, what happens if a poet in Brooklyn and an Average Joe from California both write a poem on the same topic? Both of them independently thought of the same concept, and both generated the same expression. They’d both be perfectly entitled to use it, but how would the two people know if their ideas were not identical? They’d probably not care. So, can you copyright an idea or concept?
Ideas are free without patent protection
If you’ve seen the late night commercials on the topic of ideas and how they can be patented, you’re probably confused. But that’s not the case. Both patents and copyrights protect creative expression and inventions. An idea, on the other hand, is completely free. It can be freely used without any financial compensation. So, how does an idea become protected? Read on to discover the basics.
Everything in this world started with an idea. Somebody came up with an idea, and that idea can be stolen by someone else – or they may have a similar concept to your own. Having a patent protects your idea and protects your product from imitators. Whether your idea is a new food recipe or a new way to cook an egg, a patent will help you ensure that your idea is not copied.
Original expression of an idea is protected by copyright
Copyright protects the original expression of an idea, not the idea itself. In other words, a writer can write a poem about a jungle and not worry about copyright issues as long as he/she credits the idea to the original author. A writer can also protect the expression of a poem or idea in the form of a book or movie. This is called the idea-expression dichotomy.
The Supreme Court has often interpreted copyright as protecting the original expression of an idea. For instance, in the case of Baker v. Selden, a book describing a system and accounting process was protected by copyright laws. The plaintiff, Baker, published a book in which he included blank forms used in the Selden system. The book had copied parts of Selden’s invention, but was not a complete work of art or idea.
In contrast, the Ninth Circuit has said that ideas and expressions merge when there is only one or several ways to express an idea. This means that copyright protection does not extend to an idea itself. If a person only uses a specific combination of words or designs, then it is not protected. The same holds true for designs. The distinction between the idea and expression has become a central issue in copyright cases.
Moreover, copyright protects the original expression of an idea, but not its original ideas. While an idea may be protected by copyright, an expression does not have to be in the form of a book or a video. For example, a photograph on a phonebook cover is an original work. However, a phonebook with a list of names and addresses is not protected by copyright.
Utilitarian language is not protected by copyright
There are several types of content that aren’t copyright protected. For example, factual information about current events or the natural world cannot be protected. In fact, they’re not even considered an act of authorship. These items can be used in any way. For example, if someone wants to learn how to crack an egg, they can use the word “egg” to describe the process.
The utilitarian rationale incentivizes creators, primarily through commercial gains and social benefits. In contrast, author’s rights recognizes the author’s deep connection to their works, which they consider to be their moral rights. This approach ensures the attribution of the author while also protecting the integrity of their creative works. Utilitarian language and authors’ rights have historically been associated with civil law systems.