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Check out the latest videomaker tips and tricks as it talks about this very subject. Though you may be eligible for ‘Fair Use’ according to copyright law, I’d be willing to bet my own money Lowe’s pinched up at project because they immediately assumed copyright infringement. Jerron’s correct in that you can’t copyright an idea. It’s when you permanently affix the idea in a novel or unique way into a medium such as a script or film for example, the ‘idea’ then becomes an ‘intellectual property’. It is the intellectual property which can be copyrighted.
The best place to see how all that works is on the US Copyright Office website:
Since Lowe’s was apparently having a contest, ultimately all the submissions would belong to them. Large corporations consistently balk at anything that strikes them as having infringement potential unless they already own the rights to said material.
Concerning your ‘not wanting to be sued because you had an idea that another person had before you’, again no one can copyright an idea. However, you have to remember that there are a finite number of plot motivators, so someone has already beat you to whatever you’ve come up with. Take the book ‘Frankenstein’. The basic plot is how a man defies God by creating his own man and pays the price when his creation turns on him. Geez, how many books and movies have been made since then with the same theme? The difference between them is they do not use the exact words, characters and situations from the original story. The theme makes it similar, but the theme is an idea and you can’t copyright an idea.