I am fully aware that most vehicle repair manuals have some sort of copyright protection but my confusion is regarding what specifically is protected and more specifically, things like fluid capacity values and bolt tightening specs.

If this information is copyright protected (the actual specifications / values listed) how is it that multiple manuals from completely different companies all list this information in a nearly identical way? Sometimes there are differences, but mostly not.

Looking in the front of various manuals, it seems that the copyright protection is on the manual producer themselves, pictures, methods etc. For example, Haynes / Chilton does not reference Ford copyrights or that they have permission from Ford in a Ford Escort manual. Is information like this considered common property ie. no ability to copyright?

Reason for asking: Has to do with online repair blogs and how to stay legal.

  • There's only two ways to construct a table with rows and columns... – Nij Jan 21 '18 at 4:27
  • @Nij True, but my limited experience in legal maters has taught me it doesn't always make logical sense. Two ways to breath, in and out and in some situations only one might be legal. :) – maplemale Jan 21 '18 at 4:37

In the US, you cannot copyright facts. See, for example, Feist Publications Inc v. Rural Telephone Service Co, where a phone book was held to be not copyrightable.

You can, however, copyright a particular arrangement of facts, if there is at least a spark of creativity involved. You can't copyright a recipe, but you CAN copyright a cookbook.

In general, you're OK if you copy the fluid capacity from the manual, so long as you don't copy the manual itself.

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    Under US copyright law, much of this philosophy has been captured in 17 USC § 102(b): In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work. – Upnorth Jan 22 '18 at 19:27

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