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Nichols v. Universal Pictures

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Citation Edit

Nichols v. Universal Pictures Corp., 45 F.2d 119, 7 U.S.P.Q. (BNA) 84 (2d Cir. 1930) (full-text).

Trial Court Proceedings Edit

The line between idea and expression is not easy to draw. At some point, the idea becomes detailed enough to constitute expression. As Judge Learned Hand explained:

Upon any work . . . a great number of patterns of increasing generality will fit equally well, as more and more of the incident is left out. The last may perhaps be no more than the most general statement of what the [ work ] is about, and at times might consist only of its title; but there is a point in this series of abstractions where they are no longer protected, since otherwise the [ author ] could prevent the use of his "ideas," to which, apart from their expression, his property is never extended.[1]


  1. 45 F.2d at 121.

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