In California, an idea theft claim is based in large part on the California Supreme Court case of Desny v. Wilder. In Desny, the plaintiff Victor Desny wrote a script depicting the real-life story of Floyd Collins, a boy who made headlines after he was trapped in a cave eighty feet underground. In an effort to market his script, Desny called Billy Wilder, a writer, producer and director at Paramount Pictures. Desny could not get through to Wilder and subsequently stripped his script to the bare facts so that Wilder’s secretary could copy it in short-hand over the phone.  After reading his synopsis, Desny told Wilder’s secretary that Wilder and Paramount could use the script only if they paid him a reasonable amount for doing so. Shortly thereafter, Wilder created his own movie script mirroring Densy’s. Because Densy’s script was based on historical facts, and because Desny only conveyed the bare minimum of those facts to Wilder’s secretary, both parties conceded for the purpose of the appeal that the synopsis was not sufficiently original to form the basis of a federal copyright claim. The Court, however, held that Densy stated sufficient facts to establish the existence of an implied-in-fact contract between the parties. The California Supreme Court explained that where an idea is furnished by one party to another, a contract sometimes may be implied even in the absence of an express promise to pay; a contract exists where “the circumstances preceding and attending disclosure, together with the conduct of the offeree acting with knowledge of the circumstances, show a promise to pay.
Continue Reading An Idea Doesn’t Have to be Novel to be Stolen (In California)

We previously wrote about a lawsuit filed in the Northern District of California against Instagram regarding the use of Instagram’s embedding tools. The plaintiffs, in that case, are two photojournalists who captured images of the George Floyd protests and the 2016 election and posted them to Instagram. Various media companies embedded the photos using Instagram’s proprietary embedding tools. The photos, therefore, appeared on websites without any license from the original photographers.
Continue Reading Instagram Defeats Embedding Lawsuit

The United States Copyright Office has refused to register a copyright for a work of art created by a machine.

The work of art is a two-dimensional picture that is mostly dark and sort of looks like a painting. It is a view looking towards a series of two archways over railroad tracks, with walls along the sides covered in very dark green, purple, blue, and pink foliage, with a tiny bit of blue and cloudy sky above. The title is “A Recent Entrance to Paradise.” The work was created by a machine called “Creativity Machine” and was submitted for copyright registration in 2018 by Steven Thaler.
Continue Reading Is Machine-Made Art Copyrightable?