In order to bring copyright infringement litigation, a copyright holder needs to be protected on the front end. Copyright issues are often fact-specific and challenging to assess. A good copyright litigation attorney understands the difference between a protectable interest, and unprotectable copyrights. Authors often have the most challenging time asserting their copyright infringement claims. Distinction between protecting an expression of an idea and the idea itself is clear. Expressions of ideas are potentially copyrights. Ideas, in and of themselves, are not subject to protection and are not material for copyright litigation.
Tillman v. New Line Cinema Corp., No. 05 C 910, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Mar. 7, 2008).*
Judge Kennelly dismissed plaintiff’s copyright infringement claims holding that: (1) defendants’ allegedly infringing movie, “John Q,” was created before plaintiff’s copyrighted screenplay; (2) defendants did not have access to plaintiff’s screenplay when John Q was created; and (3) John Q was not substantially similar to plaintiff’s screenplay.
Plaintiff wrote his screenplay in 1998. But defendants produced news articles and affidavits supporting the fact that their screenplay was written in 1993, including documents proving the John Q screenplay was registered with the Writers’ Guild in 1993. Plaintiff argued that defendants’ evidence was fabricated, but submitted no substantive evidence of fabrication.