Australian Court Says You Can't Copyright Facts; Phone Books Not Protected

from the no-sweat-of-the-brow dept

sinsi is the first of a few to alert us to another good copyright ruling in Australia (following the recent iiNet ruling — though the Kookaburra ruling is still pretty bad), finding that (as in the US) a collection of facts alone is not copyrightable. The specific case involved a telephone book, and whether or not the collection of numbers was covered by copyright. The court, smartly, rejected copyright on such a collection of factual information:

“None of the Works were original,” Justice Gordon said in her judgement this week.

“None of the people said to be authors of the Works exercised ‘independent intellectual effort’ or ‘sufficient effort of a literary nature’ in creating the (directories).’

“Further, if necessary, the creation of the Works did not involve some ‘creative spark’ or the exercise of the requisite ‘skill and judgment’.”

There are some places that do allow copyrights on aggregated facts, but a growing body of research has found that such “database rights” or copyrights on aggregated facts tends to hinder innovation rather than encourage it — and if the purpose of copyright law is to create incentives for new works and for innovation, allowing copyrights on collections of factual information is a bad idea. So, congrats to Australia on another good copyright ruling. Of course, this one will likely be appealed as well, and with lobbyists already pushing to amend copyright law following the iiNet ruling, I’m sure someone will try to change copyright law to include a database right as well, despite all the evidence of how harmful it is overall.

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Comments on “Australian Court Says You Can't Copyright Facts; Phone Books Not Protected”

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9 Comments
ChurchHatesTucker (profile) says:

Re: Dumbass

Alphabetical order is not creative.

It’s kind of the opposite of creative. For christsakes, ordering by number rather than name is a giagantic leap of creativity in comparrison, and *that’s* still not creative.

Really getting sick of all the frakers that think they invented some such ordering system (hint: you didn’t) and feel they need to be paid (pro tip: you don’t) and that the world owes their obviousness a living. (Good luck with that.)

ChimpBush McHitlerBurton says:

Re: Copy someone else's phone book??

“Step 1. Copy someone else’s phone book
Step 2. Remove their ads and place your own. Put more ads in it so it is thicker and looks more authoritative
Step 3. Profit”

Yeah… Fail.

Why would I go to the trouble of copying someones PRINTED phone book, when I could just purchase the same database that the phone book creator did, and make my own phone book from the data?

And please don’t say something stupid like “because you would have to pay for the database”, because that would just show how little you really thought this through, as if we didn’t already know.

CBMHB

Brad Eleven (profile) says:

Step 1. Copy someone else’s phone book ……….. $$$$$$
Step 2. Remove their ads ($$$$) and place your own ($$$$$). Put more ads in it ($$$$) so it is thicker and looks more authoritative ……………………………… $$$$$$
Step 3. Profit

Yeah, I’m a little hazy on Step 3. How the F do you get people to pay for the goddamned thing?

Ohhhhhhh, riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight, the *advertisers* pay.

Right.

So you have to either have already done the legwork to secure the advertisers, or you have to get them.

Funny thing: The difficult part of the project isn’t getting the facts from the original collector (gov’t subsidized phone company). It’s selling the advertising, and getting the ad art, and the graphic artist(s) to lay out the ads, and the paper, and the printing, and …

Who in his right mind would want to do this for money?

anti-mike fanclub member #1 says:

Re: Re:

If you provide value to those advertisers, I think it doesn’t matter where you got the phone listings from. Whoever made the phone listings in the first place is incompetent in extracting maximal value out of them, and society is best served when someone else comes along and does a better job.

ethorad (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Whoever made the phone listings in the first place is incompetent in extracting maximal value out of them, and society is best served when someone else comes along and does a better job

Except if they are extracting value by selling the collated results to people who are good at collecting advertisers, and printing/distributing heavy books. No one company has to do an entire process from cutting down trees to delivering a book. Division of labour FTW

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