18

Let's say I build some sort of index, like my own selection of websites for a particular niche of the internet.

I publish this as "Almosnow's Best Selection of Nature Websites" (for instance).

Obviously this compilation took me some time to create and I would like to limit access to it and profit from it, if possible.

Can I claim rights over my particular selection of such things as an original work?

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  • 1
    Are they factoids or a curated list?
    – Trish
    Sep 22 at 13:59
  • 1
    @Trish What's the difference? Sep 24 at 16:58
  • @AzorAhai-him- A factoid is something that looks like a fact but is not a fact. The "-oid" suffix means "almost but not quite", e.g. "asteroid" means "like a star, but not really (it's a space-rock)" and "cuboid" means "like a cube, but not really (it's stretched)".
    – Dai
    Sep 30 at 8:47
35

If there is judgement and creativity used in the selection of the list, that selection is protectable by copyright under US law, and under the laws of many other countries. The standards vary, but in most cases the degree of creativity required is low.

In the US the "time and effort" put into the list is not relevant, it is the degree of originality and creativity that matters. This is not true in all countries.

If the list includes comments on individual list items written by the list creator, those comments would normally be protected by copyright, even when the list as a whole is not.

If the list is ordered in some creative way, the ordering would also be protected, such as dividing the list into categories. an "obvious" ordering such as alphabetical is not subject to copyright protection.

However, that these various web sites exist at particular addresses is a fact (or a set of facts) and facts are never protected by copyright. If someone produces a different list, that includes many but not all of the same sites, and some other sites, it is probably not infringement even if your list was used as one source for the newer list.

If your list makes a serious attempt to include every nature website, and no selection is done, there is actually less creativity in the selection than if some judgement is used on what to include and what to omit. In that case, another list that also includes every nature website may not be considered an infringement.

See Feist Publications, Inc., v. Rural Telephone Service Co., 499 U.S. 340 (1991) in which one company copied a telephone book published by another company. Because there was no selection (everyone in the designated area was included) and the order was obvious (alphabetical), the US Supreme Court rules that there was no originality, and there fore no copyright protection in the book, and copying it was not copyright infringement. Feist is now a key case on copyright law in the US, and is followed in some other countries.

0
10

does not have the same bundle of "copyright" common in the common law. It does, differentiate between two sets of rights: Author's Rights and Neighboring Rights. Author's rights can't be sold and are mostly moral in nature, the neighboring rights contain all the economic rights.

Databases are not protected under Author's Rights. However, there is a specific Neighboring Right the "Right of the Database Creator", which protects creators of databases. (Some of) the requirements are that the creation of the database must have required a significant investment and that the data is organized systematically or methodically.

Database rights do not offer wide-ranging protection, they only protect against extraction and use of significant parts.

5
  • 1
    It is a signatory to the Berne invention on copyrights ? Sep 22 at 20:36
  • That would imply some degree of uniformity between copyright and authors rights. Sep 22 at 21:22
  • @GeorgeWhite Yes, Germany has signed the Berne convention. Only very few countries have not, see commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/… . What Jörg means is that the concept works a bit differently, because for instance the author rights cannot be transferred. But in simple terms, the rules are similar to everywhere else.
    – PMF
    Sep 23 at 7:30
  • This is very misleading. German law protects creative databases in exactly the same way as other EU systems of copyright, see: gesetze-im-internet.de/englisch_urhg/englisch_urhg.html Yes, there is also the sui generis database right, but that doesn't stop there being a copyright (whatever you may call it). Sep 23 at 18:57
  • @FrancisDavey it is very rare for a court to find that a database breaches the Schöpfungshöhe doctrine in Germany: An item needs to have at least a speckle of artistic value to be protected in full. As a result, a technical drawing, that follows all the norms and doesn't use the tiny amount of individuality that is possible is not protected under the German law. Databases are similarly in that many norms and standard use cases exist - and a database structure can't be protected at all.
    – Trish
    Sep 24 at 9:18
7

In short:

Databases are protected in Europe (and by the Berne convention) if they are creative, and by a shorter sui generis right under an European Directive even if they aren't creative.

In long:

Several European include databases in copyright law. In addition to Jörg W Mittag's answer on German law, the copyright law (article 12) in defines databases:

  1. También son objeto de propiedad intelectual, en los términos del Libro I de la presente Ley, las colecciones de obras ajenas, de datos o de otros elementos independientes como las antologías y las bases de datos que por la selección o disposición de sus contenidos constituyan creaciones intelectuales, sin perjuicio, en su caso, de los derechos que pudieran subsistir sobre dichos contenidos.
  1. Also the object of intellectual property, in the terms of Book I of the present Law, the collections of other people's works, of data or of other independent elements like the anthologies and the databases that by the selection or disposition of their contents constitute creations intellectual property, without prejudice, where appropriate, to the rights that may subsist on such content.

Such a copyright protection is also afforded to original and creative databases under the Berne Convention.(source)

Additionally, in the European Union, under Directive 96/9/EC, databases are protected by a "sui generis" form of copyright protection even if they are neither original nor creative but have been made by a substantial investment. That protection only lasts for 15 years, that is way shorter than the usual terms for copyright of creative works.

Interestingly, the only requirement of substantial investment reminds of the doctrine of sweat of the brow that European countries out of the United Kingdom usually don't follow.

3
  • Thank you @Pere, I wish I could accept your answer as well as it is valid under EU jurisdiction.
    – almosnow
    Sep 23 at 13:30
  • EU law takes priority over member state law and has direct effect, so copyright in databases is universal in the EU (and in the UK). The test is the same: own intellectual creation (see Painer and following cases). It isn't just "some" EU countries. I'm sceptical that Germany doesn't have such a form of copyright (exceptionally so). Sep 23 at 18:55
  • Well, the copyright part is up to each state and only the Berne convention - which affords a lesser level of protection - applies to all of them. The sui generis database right is on a directive, so it applies to states once implemented in each one - although my guess is that all of them have already implemented it.
    – Pere
    Sep 24 at 8:30
4

The question is whether your collection contains some creative work on your end. Such as a description of the items on the list in your own words. Pure data, such as just a list of links, is not usually copyrightable. Jurisdictions differ on how much creativity is required to grant copyright status, but a list that is created by running a google search on "nature" and collecting all websites that are returned is likely not protected.

0

I am confused; a resource as you describe would essentially be a list of links, no?

A list of links, sandwiched within relevant text explaining the list, would certainly be copyright-protected.

Is the list itself, without accompanying text (of your own) protected?

No; it's not an "original work." So a list of websites, and nothing else, is NOT copyright-protected. These are not your words; it's just a list, regardless of what efforts were involved in compiling the resource.

If, and only if, you mean "scraped" content, then NO. Just because you juxtapose different copyright-protected work does not mean it's original. There would have to be significant change.

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