Over the years, we've noted time and time again that people seem to think that if a book, movie or TV show comes out that has some basic similarities to a project they worked on, it simply must be copyright infringement. But, of course, copyright is supposed to apply to specific expression, rather than mere ideas. As we've noted, over the years, the line on this is unfortunately blurry
, but for some cases, it's pretty clear that there's no infringement at all. Such is the case in a legal fight over a Disney movie (direct to video, of course) about a dog who helps Santa Claus. Three guys came up with a similar idea, which they wrote as a short story (it took three
guys to come up with such an idea?) and then decided that the movie must have infringed on their copyright. It did not
. I'll let THREsq's summary explain:
The court acknowledged that the short story and the Disney movies had some elements in common: they all feature a threat to Christmas and a talking dog; all feature a dog named Paws, Santa Paws or Puppy Paws; they all have magical icicles; etc. There also is some similar dialogue. However, "apart from these abstract similarities, the remaining elements of the plaintiffs' short story and defendants' movies are substantially dissimilar," the court notes. "Furthermore, most of the aforementioned similarities between plaintiffs' short story and defendants' works are not protected by copyright law."
While we can point to cases like this and say that the system is working, just the fact that such cases so often get filed shows a real problem. We've so built up this perception of copyright-over-all and "ownership society" that people really do think that anyone having the same idea as them must have infringed -- and are so sure of it that they're willing to go to court. That's a symptom of a much bigger problem with the system and the way people view it today.