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.

Filed Under: australia, copyright, database rights, facts, phone book


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  1. identicon
    anti-mike fanclub member #1, 13 Feb 2010 @ 11:26am

    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.

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