For a language app I need short word bilingual definitions and word lists, containing info such as word frequency and part of speech.

I would like to use a selection of many online sources to do this. I'm just basically putting pairs of words together, reflecting an arguably objective information about the world that couldn't really be rephrased without being wronger. But still i'm using someone's work. Is that still fair use ?

I repeat that i'm not using long definitions, no examples, no details, except for part of speech or inflection information (plural, conjugation etc), which is also in my view info that can't belong to someone. 2 cases may be different: 1) I find a dictionnary with short definitions, and use them. 2) A dictionnary propose long detailed definitions with several terms and examples etc, I just take the 1st line of the first definition. Which is/isn't fair use ?

Wordlists are sometimes sold (e.g. long frequency lists with parts of speech), and some are copyrighted under creative commons with non commercial close. Does it only mean i couldn't present this list as is in my commercial product, or does it really mean that it's prohibited to barely using this information, to do my own lists and tags? Wouldn't it be fair use ?

1 Answer 1


Some elements of answers :

About the "what is fair use": I suggest you to read this answer about fair use, especially "Factor 3 : Amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole". Even if you only take a little part of the definition but it represents the whole core, then it may not be fair use (still, I am not a lawyer nor a judge).

About the Creative Commons with NC: For my interpretation (and I insist on that point), it is the wordlist as a whole which is licenced CC-BY-NC, understand: the whole collection and the way information have been processed to make this product. So using the wordlist or a part of the wordlist without modification in a commercial way would not be allowed.

Yet, I think you're still allowed to work on the wordlist to re appropriate the content, learn and process the information to create your own wordlist. Nobody will forbid you to learn a word and its definition, then to create your own wordlist.

I don't know how are the wordlists, but they may fall into the Sui Generis Database Right : "An owner has the right to object to the copying of substantial parts of their database, even if data is extracted and reconstructed piecemeal."

"Database rights are independent of copyright: The arrangement, selection, and presentation of the data may be protected by copyright, while the database as a whole can be protected by database right."

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