Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Snagging the Intel: Sandefur poses a question on intellectual property: Should you be allowed to sue if somebody comes up with the same idea as you independently, but you came up with it first?

I'm reminded of Babe vs. Gordy scenario. When those two films came out the same year, Gordy got a rep as being a cheap rip-off of Babe that a rival studio had hurriedly cranked out in response to Babe's success.

In reality, Gordy was a project nearly three decades in the making. Tom Lester, cousin Jake from Green Acres, had been shopping around the concept for Gordy for a long time--the inital idea had come from working with Arnold Ziffell, the pig on Green Acres. Getting the movie made was his ultimate dream, and he finally got the picture greenlit with the original producers of Green Acres.

We all know the sad end of that story.

Does anybody need to be sued here? The folks that made Gordy, since Babe came out first? The folks who made Babe, since Gordy had been shopped around longer? Dick King-Smith, who wrote the book Babe was based on back in 1987?

The fact is, you can't copywrite ideas. Only the execution therof.

So where do you cross the line between similarity and rip-off? Lots of people have commented that Nightworld: Lost Souls is a shameless rip-off of Orson Scott Card's novel Lost Boys. But somebody else claims that the storyline exactly follows To Kill a Mockingbird.

I also wonder about historical stuff. Can a lady who wrote a book about the Amistad sue Silverberg for making a movie about the Amistad? Does history become my intellectual property when I write about it? If I write a book about you, and it gets made into a movie, which one of us deserves renumeration? Do you deserve renumeration to a book about you? Do you have intellecutal property rights to acts you have performed, which I chronicle in my book, the way you would to a work of art you created that I reprinted in my book?

I might try to answer these questions if it weren't two in the morning and I didn't have work tommorow. Besides, I haven't seen a single one of the movies I mention here.

But I've read nearly all the books.

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