Law

The Law of Lists

June 01, 2020 Paul Brennan
Law
The Law of Lists
Chapters
Law
The Law of Lists
Jun 01, 2020
Paul Brennan

For years, the compilers of lists of names, addresses and other things have claimed copyright protection. Are they protected? Are you infringing copyright by using such lists?




Disclaimer : As an entrepreneur you should seek legal advice before you base your venture on someone else’s effort.

(c) Paul Brennan 2020. All rights reserved. 

Show Notes Transcript

For years, the compilers of lists of names, addresses and other things have claimed copyright protection. Are they protected? Are you infringing copyright by using such lists?




Disclaimer : As an entrepreneur you should seek legal advice before you base your venture on someone else’s effort.

(c) Paul Brennan 2020. All rights reserved. 

The Law of Lists

Many societies and organisations have lists of their members containing their addresses etc. which they reproduce in say a diary. Often the word copyright  or a (c) is used to denote that such lists are protected. If you use the list there may be a false name in the list which proves that you copied it. Copyright is about copying and if you produced a list containing the same information from your own efforts, without copying a substantial part of the orgainisation’s  list there is no copyright infringement.

For years, the compilers  e.g. telephone books, albums, databases, lists etc. have been elbowing their way into the copyright arena to gain the benefit of the protection afforded to copyright holders.  They have been stamping things with the word “copyright” and launching actions much to the horror of the artists, writers and creative types that copyright was intended to protect.  Of course, many of these creative types have sold their souls by assigning their copyright to publishers, film studios, software and music companies. However, in the world of copyright it is the principle that counts.  Anyway, it is the vested interests who have through convention and aggressive lobbying increased and internationalised copyright protection to levels that lawyers could describe as “awesome”, but don’t.

Some compilations can take a great deal of time, money and effort to put together and it seems wrong for someone else to copy it for nothing.  On the other hand it may be wrong for vital information such as TV schedules and racing results to be in the hands of just one entity.         

Copyright requires some creative spark of originality, of independant intellectual effort.  This seems to be lacking in a computer generated list  and probably anything produced by an accountant.  There seems to be too little intellectual effort in a telephone directory despite the substantial labour and expense in its production.

Does this mean that you can take any raw data that you want?  Yes, copyright does not protect raw data, facts and information.  However, if it is put together in an original and slightly clever way such as a dictionary, you cannot simply copy the compilation without permission.  

So where does this leave you?  It is probably alright to copy the information in telephone books and lists of members.  It depends how much of a fight the entity may put up.  There are all sorts of other arguments an aggrieved information holder can advance such as breach of confidence, trade mark infringement and/or copyright infringement of some part of the work that does not relate to the compilation e.g. Music, words, pictures etc.  The law may inconveniently change, for instance in Europe they have enacted a database right to protect some lists.

As an entrepreneur you should seek legal advice before you base your venture on someone else’s effort without paying for the right to do so unless, it is the effort of your parents and then it is usually quite acceptable.

(c) Paul Brennan 2010-2020. All rights reserved.