I recently stumbled across an answer to a question stating that certain content could not be copyrighted.

I wonder if this is also the case for collections of vocabs found online. Can they be copyrighted? Are they intellectual property?

Does it make a difference if the vocab list has a title?

If the original author of the vocabs gives me permission to use them in certain ways (licenses them and grants me certain rights), am I allowed to obtain them from the platform they uploaded them to (if the vocabs are publicly available there) or does the platform need to consent as well?

Edit: to clarify what kind of lists I'm talking about, here's their "format" (if it matters):

  • A (quite short) title
  • Sorted (not alphabetically, order chosen by copyright holder) vocab and translation + eventually annotations in vocab or translation

Random example by me (in the spirit of, but not one of the collections I'm talking about):

  • Title: "Some Connectors for Argumentative Texts"
  • Vocabs like: thereafter (english vocab) (causal) (annotation): demnach/demzufolge (german vocab) (wie "because of this") (annotation)
  • 1
    By "vocab", do you mean lists of words that one might be expected to know for some purpose?
    – user6726
    Nov 21, 2019 at 16:09
  • Following on 67s comment, it would be helpful if you added a link to one of the collections you are talking about. That way, we can see what for ourselves exactly you are talking about.
    – Just a guy
    Nov 21, 2019 at 18:16
  • @Justaguy I edited my answer to include the desired information (but not a link). I wish there were collapsible spoilers.
    – Luatic
    Nov 21, 2019 at 18:52
  • @user6726 Edited. See comment above.
    – Luatic
    Nov 21, 2019 at 18:52
  • Thanks. I must be missing something because after looking at what you added, I'm still not clear what you are talking about.
    – Just a guy
    Nov 21, 2019 at 19:35

1 Answer 1


Words themselves are not protected by copyright. Curated lists of words, however, are (what's protected is the artful collection of words chosen for a purpose). Hence Hasbro owns the copyright in the list of playable words, though it is a matter for future possible litigation to see if the courts agree.

If you have permission from the copyright holder, that permission (license) should state how you can use the list (it does not matter if there is a title). However, you may need to obtain the list from the copyright holder. The website operator presumably already has a license, the terms of which may allow them to prevent you from copying from the website. E.g. the author may have granted the website operator the right to use the list as long as they don't restrict redistribution; but that license may also require restricting redistribution. So you also have to study the website terms of use – or get a copy directly from the copyright holder (assuming that that is the original author).

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