In many cases rule books are copyrighted. For example, the standard set of rules to play chess in the United States is copyrighted. Also, the standard set of rules to play baseball is also copyrighted.

This creates a problem in that often these rule books are published in some inconvenient format or size for some uses. Also, players who need to summarize rules for various purposes have the problem of how to do so without getting sued. In many cases organizations would like to display the rules on a poster rather than have them in a book. Once again, there are copyright problems.

Rules could be construed as "information" or "data" rather than a form of expression, so at some level, to the extent that the rule is "data" it is not copyrightable. How can organizations that need to republish rules (for example to put them on a poster) be able to do so without violating copyrights?

  • Please add a jurisdiction tag - there are lots of different approaches to this question in different jurisdictions. Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 7:31

1 Answer 1


"Rules" are not copyrightable (they may be patentable): the particular expression of the rules are.

To be clear: no one owns the copyright (or the patent) on the rules of chess or (probably1) baseball - these rules were created prior to the twentieth century and any copyright has long since expired. However, if I sit down and write out my representation of the rules of chess or baseball then I have copyright in that particular expression of them. I can decide how and who can make copies or derivative works from that but I cannot prevent anyone else from writing their own version of the rules.

1The original rules are certainly out of copyright, however, the rules as they are now probably include changes that are subject to copyright.

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