The problem is that the idea/expression dichotomy is not and has never been clear
[Quote]No matter which of these bodies of law apply to any given situation, “ideas” are not and never have been protectable under federal law. Any statement to the contrary is plainly wrong and without any merit whatsoever. [/Quote]
Marcus Carab (profile), Feb 17th, 2012 @ 11:57am
The problem is that the idea/expression dichotomy is not and has never been clear. It is highly subjective and comes down to the whims of the judge. There is no simple definition to separate an idea from an expression – like the Star Wars example used above: space emperors and starships? That’s an idea. Exact characters and storyline? That’s an expression. But what about all the stuff in between? What about a brand new story set in the same universe? Or one that had very close analogues to all the characters, but with different names set elsewhere? What about a new version of the same story written from an entirely different perspective with all new details? What about an unauthorized sequel that only references the original?
It’s not easy to say where the line between idea and expression falls. Moreover, as Mike pointed out, this nuance is lost on a lot of people: the common wisdom seems to be that you can own ideas, as evidenced by the all-too-common refrain “They stole my idea!”
Are you really not prepared to acknowledge that the idea/expression dichotomy is muddy at best? It’s a complex and difficult line to draw, with several different competing tests and standards for the courts to consider. That’s not exactly a fringe opinion – it’s acknowledged by people from both sides of the debate.
Some good reading: http://www.edwardsamuels.com/copyright/beyond/articles/ideapt1-20.htm
International perspective: http://www.jiclt.com/index.php/jiclt/article/download/50/49 [pdf]