Judge Puts a Literary Twist on Copyright Infringement Case

Federal District Judge William Young summoned all his creative literary gifts to say that a plaintiff faces a more arduous journey than Ulysses when it comes to copyright protection of business publications. In an opinion praised for its detail and wit, Young made it clear the court finds near-verbatim copying of such materials establishes copyright infringement.

"Judge Young basically restated the principle that you can only copyright expression and not ideas, albeit he did so quite eloquently using wonderful literary examples," says Henry Sneath, shareholder in Picadio Sneath Miller & Norton and a national member of the Board of Directors of the Defense Research Institute.

In Feist Publishing Inc. v. Rural Tel. Serv. Co. (1991) the Supreme Court emphasized that the most "fundamental axiom of copyright law is that no author may copyright his ideas" and "no matter how much original authorship the work displays, the facts and ideas it exposes are free for the taking."

As Young wittily noted in SMS v. ASP, "Even Darwin could not have copyrighted the theory of natural selection outlined in The Origin of Species."

staff Writer

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