aprilhenry (aprilhenry) wrote,

Stealing for a living

Did you know you can't copyright a recipe? You also can't copyright an idea.

Can you copyright yourself? There's a guy, Mahir Cahgri, who has more than a passing resemblance to Borat, the creation of British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen and who now stars in a movie.

The 44-year-old's Web site, with its "I Kiss You!!!!"" greeting, made him an unlikely Internet hero seven years ago. "I like to take foto-camera (amimals, towns, nice nude models and peoples)," his site explain, giving his personal details as: "My tall 1.84 cm (6.2 feet) My weight 78 kg. My eyes green. I live alone!" In an interview, he worries people will confuse him with the imaginary Boart. "If you (see) this, what you think about me?" he told Reuters in broken English. "Mahir is a very bad comedian, Mahir is a homosexual, Mahir may be say the bad things about Jewish people? This is very bad."

Movies are always being accused of stealing someone's idea, including Pirates of the Caribbean, The Matrix, The Last Samurai, Broken Flowers, and Amistad. Part of the problem is the law. "Ideas are not subject to federal copyright protection and, until recently, that was the only legal avenue for relief. Federal law says only the expression of ideas - actual screenplays or treatments - are copyrightable. Therefore a writer would have to prove that a finished film or television show was almost identical to his original screenplay."

Donald Hughes got an agent to represent his autobiographical tale, Echoes from Clay County, which detailed how he helped his wrongly convicted brother break out of jail forty years ago. Last month, Hughes sued Fox Broadcasting Co., claiming that after rejecting his manuscript four years ago, the company used the idea for its hit series Prison Break.

According to the lawsuit, the similarities between the show and the manuscript include an innocent person sent to prison; brutality displayed by prison guards; the imprisoned person’s brother helping him break out of jail; the escape needing to be done by a certain date; a vehicle waiting outside the jail to aid in the escape; the jailbreak being the first at the institution; a prominent character named D.B. Cooper; a bank robbery; and references to the Mafia.

Give me a break. If you were going to brainstorm ideas for a story about someone breaking his brother out of prison, wouldn't a lot of the above turn up? It seems like a huge stretch to me.

Beginning writers always seem to be worried that someone is going to steal their ideas. I don't believe there are any new ideas, and I have never heard of any novelist having their expressions of those ideas stolen.

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