In Copyright Law and Schindler’s List (the List, not the Movie or the Book), Eugene Volokh notes a recent case, Rosenberg v. Zimet, 2010 N.Y. Slip Op. 20516 (Dec. 21), concerning “ownership” “of the contents of ‘Schindler’s List.’” Apparently, one Nathan Stern was given an original Schindler’s List from his uncle, who was Schindler’s accountant. He then retained Zimet, a Memorabilia dealer, to find a buyer.
Then Rosenberg, the heir of Schindler’s wife, sued Zimet on the grounds that she owned the copyright to the List. Fortunately, the judge in this case found against Rosenberg and denied the copyright claim. As Volokh observes, the court’s decision (if not his analysis) was correct, because “the list consists solely of facts and not Schindler’s original expression (in the copyright sense)”.
About this case, my friend Rob Wicks wrote me:
Damn. IP is a freaking mess. It has the potential to be the worst effect the state has ever had, because it effectively will end up co-opting all the wealthy people in a place covered by those laws to be active agents for the state in defense of their property. I really think that the endpoint for IP is not going to be “balance.” It is going to be the complete subsumption of all property as merely being aspects of the larger, “purer” property, the intellectual kind.
Almost all state predations of the past were fairly limited in primary effects: even slavery affected a relative few directly. The secondary effects: distortions on prices, wages, and currency instability, could be attributed to being “just life.” How’s this for a sci-fi scenario of our IP-soaked future: the creation of nearly a caste system. People might work and study, not to get a bit of land for a house, but to buy a first patent.