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Let's say an organization asks a panel of volunteer judges to select the best short stories of the year. The judges select a set of stories, which are all available for free by a CC-BY creative commons license. The judges also arrange these stories into thematic groups. The organization claims copyright of the collective work.

  1. Can the organization claim copyright of the collective work despite no contract or written agreement from the judges nor any payment to the judges?
  2. If I list which stories are in the collection (i.e. a list of that year's best stories) but the list has a completely different order (e.g., by author name), is this reordered list sufficiently distinct to avoid a copyright claim by the original list's copyright holder?
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  1. Can the organization claim copyright of the collective work despite no contract or written agreement from the judges nor any payment to the judges?

No.

The judges are independent contractors (irrespective of if they get paid) and copyright would belong to them unless there was an agreement that the work was "work for hire". Assuming the judges knew that their work was going to be used by the organisation (and its hard to see how they wouldn't) then the organisation would have an implicit licence to use it for that purpose.

  1. If I list which stories are in the collection (i.e. a list of that year's best stories) but the list has a completely different order (e.g., by author name), is this reordered list sufficiently distinct to avoid a copyright claim by the original list's copyright holder?

Avoid a claim? That's entirely up to the copyright holder. Be successful in defending a claim? Probably.

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  • Thanks. And good call on "have a claim" vs. "be successful in defending the claim". – sharoz May 27 '20 at 8:40

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