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Ideas not protected under copyright law

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  1. Content Restrictions

    NMU         NEW YORK         Copyrights & Trademarks         Mar 23, 2001    

Ideas not protected under copyright law

  • A New York inmate could not claim protection for the theme of a magazine submission that resulted in similar articles featured in the publication.

A federal judge in New York ruled that exploiting another person’s idea is not a violation of copyright laws.

James Bell, an inmate at the Cape Vincent Correctional Facility in New York, sued Blaze Magazine for copyright infringement of his manuscript titled “Hip Hop Behind The Walls,” which he submitted to the magazine in September 1998. Bell had registered the manuscript and owned a valid copyright.

Blaze Magazine published a cover story titled “Hip Hop Behind Bars” in May 1999, which used a restructured interview Bell submitted and information obtained from other magazine resources. The June/July issue of Blaze Magazine featured another article dealing with several subjects Bell said his manuscript contained.

Judge Richard Conway, for the southern district of New York, said that copyright protection does not extend to words, short phrases, titles, concepts and ideas.

“The fact that Blaze Magazine used its greater resources to get information … is simply an example of (Blaze Magazine) capitalizing on (Bell’s) idea,” the judge said. “The law does not provide for relief under the copyright laws for the exploitation of others’ ideas.”

(James Bell v. Blaze Magazine) EH

© 2001 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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