An interesting post by Tim Wu at Lessig
A relatively little-known fact outside of copyright practice is that movie studios regularly purchase the film and television rights to newspaper stories. Yes, newspaper stories, which by their nature, report on facts or ideas, two things the copyright law does not protect. So what are studios buying?
There is a widespread myth that the government monopoly provided by copyright is necessary to sell something: Wu speculates that the studio is worried about being sued. Why don't they pay me for the movie rights then? I have as much chance of suing successfully as the newspaper does. Michele and I have done our best
to point out that as a matter of theory ideas are always scarce and command a positive price. Yet the fact that it is true in practice continues to mystify people.