German High Court Says That TV Schedule Info Is Covered By Copyright; TV Listings Sites Have To Pay

from the copyrighting-facts? dept

I still can't comprehend arguments in favor of allowing copyrights on facts. However, over in Europe they do allow copyrighting of facts if they're in a database, using so-called database rights. Of course, there's a big problem with such things. Contrary to the claim that database rights encourage a bigger database industry, the evidence (just like copyright and patents) points out that the opposite is true. And yet, Europe keeps believing in database rights. techflaws.org points us to a recent High Court ruling in Germany claiming that TV listings are covered by copyright and thus websites that display the factual information of what the TV schedule is have to pay up. In other words, it's going to become harder to find out what time shows are on TV, meaning that fewer people will watch TV. How does this help anyone?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    BentFranklin, Dec 22nd, 2009 @ 8:40pm

    Geht Lost

    Wann geht Lost heute Abend?

    Ich kann Ihnen nicht sagen.

     

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  2.  
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    zellamayzao, Dec 22nd, 2009 @ 8:53pm

    Wirklich? Wirklich.


    I doubt people will watch tv less just because they have less information as to whats on the box. They may just be a bit more lost when it comes to finding something they wanna watch when they are watching tv and this will increase channel surfing but it will not decrease tv viewing.

     

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  3.  
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    Brian (profile), Dec 22nd, 2009 @ 8:55pm

    Well if the facts are covered by copyright then could they get around it by saying the show starts a few minutes after lets say 8:55pm and ends a just before 10:05pm. I see no direct information being given unless we can copyright anything related to the factual information already covered.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 22nd, 2009 @ 9:15pm

    Re:

    I see no direct information being given unless we can copyright anything related to the factual information already covered.

    Two words: derivative work.

     

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  5.  
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    The Anti-Mike, Dec 22nd, 2009 @ 9:36pm

    perhaps...

    I have to wonder: Would it be the same thing if the tvtv.de site contacted each broadcaster themselves and collected information, and published it that way?

    It would appear that these websites are taking informtion from another site and republishing it. I can see where that would run into a copyright issue, not for the material itself, but rather for the collection of material being republished.

    What is on TV is a fact, but collecting those facts into one place isn't just a "fact", is would at some point become an actual product of value. Otherwise, it could be said that a school textbook should be free, because it contains nothing but knowledge that already exists. Yet textbooks are copyright (the presentation and product, not facts contained within).

    Mike, I think you need to think harder on this one, I think you are missing the point.

     

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  6.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Dec 22nd, 2009 @ 10:21pm

    Re: perhaps...

    Would it be the same thing if the tvtv.de site contacted each broadcaster themselves and collected information, and published it that way?

    Not necessarily. It does depend on the specific laws. Some do say independent collection of the same data is allowed, others aren't so fond of it. But, yes, that could make a difference.

    It would appear that these websites are taking informtion from another site and republishing it. I can see where that would run into a copyright issue, not for the material itself, but rather for the collection of material being republished.

    Again, that depends on where you are and if you have a database right. The US has explicitly rejected such things, and Europe has not. However, as pointed out in the post, studies have shown that contrary to the claims of those supporting such rights, database industries tend to be smaller in areas where such a right exists -- and there is no evidence of increased database output when such laws are strengthened (there is *some* initial increased investment soon after such laws are passed, but the end result is not seen in the output).

    What is on TV is a fact, but collecting those facts into one place isn't just a "fact", is would at some point become an actual product of value.

    Copyright is not designed to cover "products of value." They are designed to promote progress, and, as such are only designed to protect new creative works.

    Otherwise, it could be said that a school textbook should be free, because it contains nothing but knowledge that already exists. Yet textbooks are copyright (the presentation and product, not facts contained within).

    Yes, it's the overall presentation, but it's the creativity within that presentation, not the specific facts, as you note. So a TV listing company absolutely could have a copyright on their *design* but so long as the site in question changed the design and merely reprinted the facts, it should be allowed. But it was not.

    That's the problem.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 22nd, 2009 @ 10:39pm

    Re: perhaps...

    Yet textbooks are copyright (the presentation and product, not facts contained within).

    It appears that in Germany now the facts within may also be copyrighted. Not being able to reuse the information contained within doesn't seem to me like much of an incentive to buy a textbook in Germany.

     

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  8.  
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    The Anti-Mike, Dec 22nd, 2009 @ 10:42pm

    Re: Re: perhaps...

    Yes, it's the overall presentation, but it's the creativity within that presentation, not the specific facts, as you note. So a TV listing company absolutely could have a copyright on their *design* but so long as the site in question changed the design and merely reprinted the facts, it should be allowed. But it was not.

    That's the problem.


    It's also about how that information is sourced. If tvtv.de has no staff, and is entirely dependent on taking content from the other site and reformatting it, there is an issue. Clearly one party is doing work to collection information,and the other party is just using their efforts for profit with minimal expense.

    Copyright is not designed to cover "products of value." They are designed to promote progress, and, as such are only designed to protect new creative works.

    You almost got it, but you missed. Is TV guide just a guide, or is it a a work product? Much of the information inside isn't specifically copyrighted (the listing information as individual items), but as a block source, it crosses the line from raw data to a finished product. Do you not think that a company taking the listing sections of a TV guide and replacing the ads with their own and republishing it would not get in trouble?

    and there is no evidence of increased database output when such laws are strengthened

    Raw output of anything isn't a very good indication of an effecient or effective system, especially in this case. Nothing would be stopping tvtv.de from making all the contacts and creating their own database to work from. What is an issue is that they appear to be allowing someone else to do the expensive work (gathering data) and then profiting from that effort at no cost.

    I cannot understand why you don't see that this is an issue. The company that collects the data has the expense, and is effectively supplying their competition at no cost. I cannot see how that would be considered fair or just.

     

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  9.  
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    The Anti-Mike, Dec 22nd, 2009 @ 10:45pm

    Re: Re: Re: perhaps...

    Sorry, I just want to add this:

    For me, the stink test is this: If the database operator shut down tomorrow, would tvtv.de be able to continue as a going concern? Would the be able to provide the same service under the same costs sturctures?

    My feeling is the answer would be "no", and that makes it clear that they are entirely dependant on obtaining something for nothing from others to stay in business. That certainly isn't a fair business situation.

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    :), Dec 22nd, 2009 @ 10:48pm

    Internet TV

    Hope Germans have TV sets that come with internet connectivity.

    That way they don't need listings they just need to call miro up and subscribe to channels they like.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 22nd, 2009 @ 10:51pm

    It's also about how that information is sourced. If tvtv.de has no staff, and is entirely dependent on taking content from the other site and reformatting it, there is an issue. Clearly one party is doing work to collection information,and the other party is just using their efforts for profit with minimal expense.

    Collecting facts does not give you the right to deny anyone else's use of them. I can freely distribute the voting numbers from a given election, despite a single group being responsible for the collection and release of that information. The same can be said about any survey, poll, statistics, etc.

     

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  12.  
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    The Anti-Mike, Dec 22nd, 2009 @ 10:55pm

    Re:

    despite a single group being responsible for the collection and release of that information.

    What is amazing is that you typed this and didn't even realize you are making the point. The results of an election are released as news. TV listings are not news.

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    :), Dec 22nd, 2009 @ 11:38pm

    Crowdsourcing listing.

    People could easily crowd-source such a database but under the current law people can't do it such a shame.

    I imagine that and app that put train and buses schedules would be forbidden too.

    An example of a crowd-sourced database is thetvdb.com :)

    There are many others.
    Lets see what OpenStreetMap have done to databases:

    - openseamap.org
    - informationfreeway.org
    - topo.geofabrik.de
    - yournavigation.org
    - free-map.org.uk
    - yournavigation.org
    - openrouteservice.org
    - öpnvkarte.de

    It is even used by the monopoly game.
    http://www.pcworld.com/article/171610/monopoly_city_streets_online_game_will_buying_park_plac e_be_any_easier.html

    TV.com is making a lot of money started as a fan source database and was bought damn and have various competitors that keep it real.

    Some websites have to scrap 3 or more to find other relevant data. Besides all databases are scrapes of information from others what makes people think they have ownership on facts?

    Is ridiculous how the german court interpreted the thing.

    http://www.unc.edu/courses/2006spring/law/357c/001/projects/dougf/node13.html#SECTION00032 100000000000000

    "Lessons

    So what, if anything, does the Directive actually protect? Although the Directive’s stated purpose is to provide protection for investments in databases, it appears to provide very little such protection. A provider of valuable data in particular cannot look to the Directive for protection of that data. The copyright protections do not extend to the contents of a database; the sui generis protection will not apply to data that is “created” rather than “gathered”; and where independent existing data is gathered but subsequently takes on some official nature due to marketing or “stamps of official approval”, it ceases to be independent existing data and becomes something else, also losing sui generis protection in the process. It is somewhat difficult to see how BHB could have packaged its database product differently, in order to qualify for protection under the Directive. "


    What the court did in fact was extend something that was not envisage in the initial law.


    WIPO Draft:
    The draft was met with substantial opposition, both from academics and from developing countries, both of which groups rely to a large extent on free access to data, and both of which feared that the Draft provisions would unacceptably restrict access to facts. The Draft was not adopted in the session, and while the topic of database protection remains a discussion topic on WIPO’s Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights, no international treaty specific to databases has been adopted.


    Wanna bet that schools in germany are suffering because of this kind of interpretation of the law?

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    :), Dec 22nd, 2009 @ 11:46pm

    Crowdsourcing listing.

    http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&ie=UTF-8&sl=auto&tl=en&u=http://www.heis e.de/meldung/Privatsender-untersagen-Online-TV-Zeitschrift-Datennutzung-220079.html&prev=_t& rurl=translate.google.com

    Protecting that database causes more harm then good.
    First that database would have to have been made anyway it was already made for and have to be distributed and TV stations do it for free or else TV sets manufactures don't even bother to list them.

    The reasoning behind such a law was not to make easier to maintain databases and it has the opposite effect with fewer using it and very little exposure and at the same time posing a great risk to education and society.

    Yah only the stupid would think that this law is any good.

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    :), Dec 22nd, 2009 @ 11:50pm

    Correction

    The reasoning behind such a law was to make easier to maintain databases and it has the opposite effect with fewer using it and very little exposure and at the same time posing a great risk to education and society not to mention they constrict commerce.

    While open initiatives proves that not only databases can be maintained with little to no cost they spin innovative uses and even commercial opportunities.

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    db0, Dec 23rd, 2009 @ 12:13am

    It Helps

    meaning that fewer people will watch TV. How does this help anyone?


    It helps those of use thinking TV had ended up as a simply propaganda box designed to keep people on their couches instead of thinking. The more people that stop watching it and turn to the internet for their entertainment and information, the better.

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Quality Research, Dec 23rd, 2009 @ 12:18am

    Other Means

    The television has an extensive reach - to think that people will not come up with ways to counter this action is too much of an assumption.

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    :), Dec 23rd, 2009 @ 12:21am

    Charge viewers for the privilege.

    How many would be happy to see a bill coming from your TV station charging you for the schedules?

     

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  19.  
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    Tor (profile), Dec 23rd, 2009 @ 12:29am

    Intellectual/creative - really?

    A quote from Wikipedia:
    Under Article 3, databases which, "by reason of the selection or arrangement of their contents, constitute the author's own intellectual creation" are protected by copyright as collections: no other criterion may be used by Member States.
    Can it really be called an "intellectual creation" to just gather information for TV schedules? To me it doesn't seem any more intellectual than delivering people's mail or something like that. Although there are some challenges in doing it efficiently there isn't room for much creativity in relation to the end result.

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 23rd, 2009 @ 2:07am

    Re: Re: perhaps...

    Oh you do respond to actual people. I was starting to worry.

     

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  21.  
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    Interested Observer, Dec 23rd, 2009 @ 2:51am

    Re: Re:

    But under your argument can't the guide also be interpreted as news? A lot of people are interested in it, after all. And, as you yourself have pointed out, it is just a collection of facts.

     

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  22.  
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    Mike C. (profile), Dec 23rd, 2009 @ 6:16am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: perhaps...

    Just because they have a lousy business model doesn't automatically make it wrong.

    If tvtv.de is truly dependent on a single public source for their data, that single source actually has all the power. They can change their format or even explicitly block requests from specific requestors (IP's). Heck, you could probably even set up something to determine the requestor and send requestor specific content back to them.

    Yes, it means that VG Media (I think that's the source) will have to do a bit of extra work, but since when has a successful company ever been able to remain stagnant and profitable at the same time? The two just don't fit together because consumers are always looking for the next best thing (app, service, product, etc).

    /software developer

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Insider, Dec 23rd, 2009 @ 7:44am

    Got it all wrong

    OK, obviously you guys dont understand what tvtv.de actually does. The website is a by-product of their real business, they aggregate schedule data for about 1200 channels across Europe from many sources, direct and indirect, they collect and enhance the data with images, categories, genres, synopsis, etc. Most importantly the normalise the data and create a standard and structured output feed for use by device makers.

    This is necessary as there is no real consistent standard in Europe for this. DVB-SI is not structured enough and non existent in some countries.

    If it wasnt for tvtv, set top box makers and companies like Elgato (Eye TV) would have to either aggregate the 1200 channels themselves or find another company that can do it....which would then also be liable for copyright infringement.

    Also, VG Media claimed copyright only on the synopsis and images of the programs produced by the VG media companies (Private broadcasters). They suggested that the description of the program contained a creative element and for this reason it was copyrightable. Not on the schedule (times) which are facts and NOT SUBJECT TO COPYRIGHT. tvtv has been operating like this since the first judgement and looking at their website there has been little noticable change.

    Generally, the reaction from most folks has been supportive of tvtv. Some have even suggested that tvtv should remove the channels completely from their database so no set top box EPG powered by tvtv would be able to tune to those channels ;)

     

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  24.  
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    Onnala (profile), Dec 23rd, 2009 @ 8:07am

    Hulu

    Another thing you could point out is that TV listings are yet another dying model. "Fixed times for viewing content? What an archaic idea." Being from a younger set most of us realized that the shows we watch pop up on Hulu and watch them there during lunchtime at work and spend time on the weekends at wild parties.

     

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  25.  
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    Insider, Dec 23rd, 2009 @ 8:42am

    Incidently

    Incidently, on wednesday a Cologne court contradicted the Dresden court decision by ruling in favour of a consortium of Magazine publishers (VDZ) who already publish TV listing in print and dont want to be charged for putting the same information on their websites. The court ruled that the magazine publishers do not have to pay the VG Media licenses...appeals expected no doubt.

    There is also a complaint lodged with the European court...interesting times.

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 23rd, 2009 @ 12:14pm

    Re: Re:

    "TV listings are not news."

    They are when they're new.

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    vyvyan, Dec 23rd, 2009 @ 2:46pm

    Re: Intellectual/creative - really?

    What if the tables are reordered? :P

     

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