a data licensing problem

John Cowan jcowan at reutershealth.com
Fri Nov 8 23:11:20 UTC 2002

Lawrence E. Rosen scripsit:

> The telephone book is
> copyrightable, although the individual names and numbers aren't.  

Say what?  I thought the whole point of Feist v. Rural Tel. Serv. Co. was that
even compilation copyright doesn't apply to phone books, there being
insufficient creativity, even for an IP court, in merely alphabetizing names.

> Suppose the copyright owner wants to let everyone use the dataset, 

But that isn't what they want.  They want only certain privileged persons
to use the dataset: those who run free operating systems, or those who
run free applications, it's not clear which.  (What about free applications
on unfree OSes, or vice versa?)  That way they can continue to sell the data
to the Windows-using masses.  No way this is OSD-compliant.

> [I]f I were to take a published dictionary and add definitions and
> republish it, am I creating a derivative work of the dictionary?  I
> think so, but I'd want to verify this point.

Sure you are.  The definientia in the dictionary are not subject to
copyright, but the definitions themselves certainly are -- compare any
two dictionaries from different companies to see how very different the
definitions are: no content-form merger here!  The exemplary quotations
are generally considered fair use, although I don't know of any actual
court cases about this.


John Cowan                                <jcowan at reutershealth.com>     
http://www.reutershealth.com              http://www.ccil.org/~cowan
Yakka foob mog.  Grug pubbawup zink wattoom gazork.  Chumble spuzz.
    -- Calvin, giving Newton's First Law "in his own words"
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