Idea-Expression Divide or Idea-Expression Dichotomy.
Idea-Expression Dichotomy is embodied in Section 102(b)
of the copyright code. Idea-Expression Dichotomy denies protection to the ideas which
underlie copyrightable works. Only the original "expressions" contained in these
works can actually receive copyright protection.
Intellectual property laws are generally designed keeping Idea-Expression Dichotomy in mind to protect the fixed expression of an idea rather than the fundamental idea itself.
Examples of Idea-Expression Dichotomy or Idea-Expression Divide
Copyright may not subsist in the idea of a man on an expedition, but may subsist in a book which follows that expedition.
Similarly, if the methods or processes described in a technical non-fiction work are patentable they may be the subject of various patent claims, whereas the fundamental underlying idea may not be. An adventure novel provides an illustration of the concept. Copyright may subsist in the work as a whole, in the particular story or characters involved, or in any artwork contained in the book, but generally not in the idea or genre of the story.
The idea-expression divide which is also referred to as
idea-expression dichotomy is a concept which explains the appropriate function of
intellectual property laws, which are generally designed to protect the fixed expression
or manifestation of an idea rather than the fundamental idea itself.
"Unlike a patent, a copyright gives no exclusive
right to the art disclosed; protection is given only to the expression of the idea, not
the idea itself." Mazer v. Stein, 347 U.S. 201, 217 (1954) - Idea-Expression