Copy Right, Copy Sense



Bellsouth vs. Donnelley

Burrow-Giles Lithographic Co. v. Sarony

Copyright CodeA Linked Index

Feist Publications vs. Rural Telephone

Peter Veeck versus Southern Building Code Congress International Inc.,

Publications International  v. Meredith Corporation

Trade-Mark Cases, 100 U.S. 82 (1879)

U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 8

Information on this site cannot be considered legal advice.  If you need legal advice on copyright, please consult an attorney or refer to one or more of the sponsor links on the right side of the page. Another place you might look is the US Copyright Office web site.

The copyright information on this site applies to U.S. Copyright, unless otherwise stated.

What is Required for a Compilation to be Eligible for Copyright?

The law identifies three distinct elements, all of which must be met for a work to qualify as a copyrightable compilation:

  1. the collection and assembly of pre-existing material, facts, or  data;
  2. the selection, coordination, or arrangement of those materials; and
  3. the creation, by virtue of the particular selection, coordination, or arrangement of an original work of authorship.

Collection and assembling facts and information isn't enough. Compilations, just as any other work, may only be copyrighted if the originality requirement, “an original work of authorship,” is met. “The point was emphasized with regard to compilations to ensure that courts would not repeat the mistake of the ‘sweat of the brow’ courts by concluding that fact-based works are treated differently and measured by some other standard.” (Feist) The Congressional goal was to “ ‘make plain that the criteria of copyrightable subject matter... apply with full force to works... containing preexisting material.’” (Feist)

 The Supreme Court, in reviewing the law, has concluded “that the statute envisions that there will be some fact-based works in which the selection, coordination, and arrangement are not sufficiently original to trigger copyright protection” (Feist) in any way at all.

 The originality requirement is not very stringent. In fact, the selection or arrangement methods that others have used may unknowingly be used; “novelty is not required.” For the originality requirment, the author needs only to make the arrangement or selection independently, without copying the selection or arrangement from another work, and it must display some minimal level of creativity. While most factual compilations will pass this test, there will be a small number of works “in which the creative spark is utterly lacking or so trivial as to be virtually nonexistant.” (Feist)

 Originality may occur in the selection of the material to be included in a compilation. If it is truely original, the selection may be a part of the protected portion of a compilation. On the other hand, if the selection of the material is made through the use of formulas, procedures, or other non-original techniques, protection of the selection is not likely. Such acts of selection “are not acts of authorship, but techniques for the discovery of facts.” (bellsouth)

 A copyrightable compilation enjoys only limited protection. The copyright only covers the "author's original contribution -- not the facts or information conveyed." (Feist)

 "One of the most important points here is one that is commonly misunderstood today: copyright... has no effect one way or the other on the copyright or public domain status of the preexisting material." (Feist)

 Note: The copyright law "states that the term 'compilation' includes collective works." (Publications International)

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