I am currently working on a trivia game. I have written more than 2000 questions thanks to Wikipedia. Because there are a lot of general questions, I am worried that another board game, a video game or a TV show in the world has registered an identical question.

If in my game I have a question such as "what is the difference between perfume and cologne?", maybe someone has registered the same question in a game. This could happen by chance and because Wikipedia is a very good website to read and create questions, and everyone can access it.

Although the questions were obviously be written differently, perhaps someone wrote "What is the characteristic that distinguishes the perfume of the cologne?", if the context is similar, is this reportable?

2 Answers 2


If you come up with something on your own, and this happens to be the same as what someone else has come up with, you are not in violation of copyright, as you did not actually copy anything. Proving this to a jury is another matter, although if a single question happens to be the same as a single other question, a jury is probably likely to believe you. It's not like you're claiming to have independently written an entire Harry Potter novel.

As far as whether individual questions can be copyrighted in the first place, the surprising answer is that they could be. See Educational Testing Services. v. Katzman, 793 F.2d 533, 539 (3d Cir. 1986) and Applied Innovations, Inc. v. Regents of the University of Minnesota, 876 F.2d 626, 635 (8th Cir. 1989). In the first case, questions from the SAT were copied, and that was found to be infringing. In the second case, questions from a psychological test were copied, and that was found to be infringing even though:

The test statements are for the most part short, simple, declarative sentences, such as "I am a good mixer." and "No one seems to understand me."

These were held to be copyrightable and not simply uncopyrightable "short phrases".


As I understand it, the at issue nature of a trivia game will likely be the mechanisms of game play, rather than the trivia questions asked. Asking for factual answers in a game is not necessarily grounds for infringement, but if you can phone a friend or rely on a survey taken prior to the game's start, you're treading on thin Ice.

Facts are not copyright-able, but what you do with those facts are. It may be that certain organizations may not like that fact being available to the general public, but if you are using generic terms OR are using data from a company source, you don't have much to worry about.

  • 3
    I don't think you can copyright the idea of phoning a friend or taking a survey. "In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation..."
    – D M
    Jan 24, 2018 at 16:02
  • 1
    @DM: Yeah. I'm just naming some pretty well known game show mechanics that would rely in some part on trivia.
    – hszmv
    Jan 24, 2018 at 16:29

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