] "Imagine doing a Google search for a phone number, weather
] report or sports score. The results page would be filled with
] links to various sources of information. But what if someone
] typed in keywords and no results came back?
] That's the scenario critics are painting of a new bill wending
] its way through Congress that would let certain companies own
] facts, and exact a fee to access them."
] "The House Judiciary Committee approved the bill and the
] commerce committee is expected to review it on Thursday."
] [ Jesus. I don't even know what to say to this. I don't see
] how existing copyright law fails to address this. My
] understanding is that a verbatim copy of large sections of a
] published work, even one which is essentially a collection of
] facts, is already a violation of copyright. If you aren't
] publishing your database as a work, then you aren't really in
] danger of infringement, right?
] I want more details. If i write a really clever program that
] scrapes and aggregates court decisions and relevant case law
] straight from all the thousands of courts in the nation,
] indexes it and crosslinks it, and then i publish the result,
] does LexisNexis get to sue me? Under current law, i *think*
] the answer is no... would this change that? How can i be
] liable for creating my own independent collection of publicly
] available information? -k]
Ryan-- The key, as we were discussing last night, is the "sweat of the brow" doctrine which was overruled by the US Supremes in the most famous database/copyright decision, Feist Publications v. Rural Telephone Service, 499 U.S. 340. In that case, Plaintiff published a telephone book. Defendant copied it. Plaintiff knew he did because they had placed false listings in it.
Long story short, facts are not copyrightable, as has always been the case. Compilations of facts, to the extent they require some form of originality and creativity, are protectable, but not as to the facts themselves. Hence, you don't get copyright protection just because you go through the work to compile something.
This new bill seeks to overturn Feist, for the most part. I have not read the text of the bill, so this is somewhat of a snap judgment, but from what I understand, they are seeking to protect databases from being ganked. There have been a few bills of this nature floated around the past several years here and in Europe (additionally in the international trade assns).
As to k's hypothetical, no, they are not seeking to stop you from doing that. Lexis/Nexis is seeking to keep you from indexing from their servers all of their services. They pretty much can do that through other means, such as terms of services, federal hacking laws, etc, but they are trying to add another tool to their arsenal. You could compile the cases from the court yourself, if you'd like.
I don't widely advocate using copyright law to accomplish this, but I think that databases probably should be protected in some form or another.
P.S. I guess I can say that I am a lawyer now!
RE: Wired News: Hands Off! That Fact Is Mine