If something is "generic" then there can be a copyright question. Is it easy to know what is "generic" and what is copyright, for example an innovation can't be "generic" and have a copyright iiuc.

For example, if I make a website and then somebody sues me and says the code belongs to them, then they must prove that the code is not "generic" to have a copyright, unless it was already proven that the code had a copyright.

Did I understand correctly? This is not an actual case, I'm wondering what I can expect to claim copyright on for myself and others.

In my language we say "height of technology" e g that you must prove a "technology" to claim a copyright or a patent, but maybe the question is only about legal formalism since you can get copyright on almost anything (well maybe not code like "Hello World!").

  • Evidence of copying would probably come in the form of substantial similarity in names and structure of objects and methods including quirky stuff like "my_stupid_index".
    – user6726
    May 25 '16 at 15:26
  • I believe that central to a (hypothetical) case like this would be the concept of a "proprietary look and feel" for instance getting sued because I copied a stylesheet and didn't include the licence, which had permitted me to do it if I had kept the licence. May 25 '16 at 15:30
  • 1
    Note that many innovations cannot be protected by copyright. In particular, inventions are protected by patents.
    – phoog
    May 25 '16 at 19:02

They need to prove first that you copied. Well, not prove, but provide evidence that it is more likely that you copied than not. If something doesn't fall under copyright (for example a list of all numbers from 1 to 10,000) then usually it's hard to prove that you copied it. Your list of numbers from 1 to 10,000 can be identical to mine without any copying.

To avoid complications, don't copy.


You are confusing two different types of intellectual property.


Exists in creative literary and artistic works automatically from the moment of their creation.

It covers traditional literary works like novels, newspaper articles, letters, architect's and engineer's plans etc. as well as more modern concepts like blog posts, emails, tweets (if they are sufficiently creative), your question here and my answer. It also covers computer code: it does not cover algorithms.

It covers traditional artistic works like paintings, sculpture, architecture etc. as well as more modern concepts like audio recordings, video recordings, web page designs etc.

A copyright holder has the right to decide if and under what circumstances another person can copy or make derivative works from their work.

There does not have to be anything particularly innovative in the work for it to get the benefit of copyright; there just has to be some creative effort stored in a durable form (e.g. on paper, on a hard drive, on film etc.). For that reason, facts are not subject to copyright but the arrangement of facts (like an encyclopaedia) are.


This IP concept applies to inventions: a machine, a drug, a process, a piece of manufactured genetic code etc.

You do not get the benefit of a patent automatically, you have to apply for it. In order for it to be granted your invention must be new, useful and non-obvious.

  • 1
    One last correction, Gottschalk v. Benson, Diamond v Diehr, Bilski, Alice v CLS Bank, all held and restated that algorithms are not patentable. Machines and processes that use them are patentable if they add significantly more to them and don't preclude the use of the algorithm itself.
    – user3851
    May 26 '16 at 4:31
  • Edited to reflect that.
    – user3851
    May 26 '16 at 14:39

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