About a year ago I asked whether I can commercially publish a chess book containing chess positions that were played by real people. I got pretty convincing replies, which solved the question for me (i.e., that chess games including names and places and piece positions cannot be copyrighted, but annotations and collections can).

So now I've finished my book, containing real life examples of chess games played by real people with my own annotations, and I was almost ready to publish it, when I learned that the Canadian Chess Federation had recently been sued for publishing (on their website) a chess game with their own annotations, but featuring real people. A link for the discussion is here, and here are some excerpts:

And yet someone is trying to do so. We (the Chess Federation of Canada) are being sued in small claims court in Burlington, Ontario by someone alleging that they own the copyright to a game that was published on our website newsfeed.

Perhaps more worrying is this:

The names of the players are given on our newsfeed. Our editor included his own annotations including a brief quote of something Botvinnik said about one of the intermediate positions. There are no annotations from either of the original players. The litigant is trying to make new law. If he is successful we will probably no longer be able to post chess games on our website and will have to close down our email news magazine.

So a major chess publisher/club is being sued for exactly the things I was told are not sue-able in my previous stack exchange post.

The person concludes that:

I believe a national Canadian and prominent NY paper are also being sued.

So now I'm having second thoughts about publishing my book. This is obviously a hobby for me and I have a family, a day job to take care of and I don't want to waste time and money defending myself in court.

  • 3
    Copyright law is not volatile enough to reverse the tenet that facts are not copyrightable. Also, the complaint was filed in 2016 or earlier, and the lack of details or updates suggests that it was dismissed. Feb 19 at 14:48
  • Stop relying on random people on the internet for legal advice?
    – user40839
    Feb 19 at 14:48
  • Either it was dismissed, or it was settled out of court.
    – Trish
    Feb 19 at 19:54
  • Perhaps, but even if a judgement for the plaintiff was given, small claims cases are not usually reported in the news, or much of anywhere. In the US, copyright claims must be brought in federal district court, not state small claims, although there is copyright small claims tribunal. Feb 19 at 22:07

1 Answer 1


We cannot and will not try to answer "what should i do?" questions here.

Nothing in the linked page makes me think that the views expressed in the previous question here are any less correct. They certainly have not changed the law on copyright.

The linked page is an open forum. Many of the posts o9n that thread express ill-informed and incorrect views of how copyright works, and what it protects.

Several google searchs find no trace of the suit described in the thread. Note that in US law no copyright claim may be heard in a small claims court, except for the federal copyright office's small claims tribunal. I am not sure if the same is true in Canada, but it might be that the suit was simply dismissed on such a basis. In any case small claims cases do not establish legal precedents in Canada or the US.

Of course it is true that anyone can sue over almost anything, even when there is no valid legal basis for the suit. If the suit had been won by the claimant, or even settled that would be larger grounds for worry.

A person seriously worried over publishing a book such as that described in the question might do well to consult a lawyer with relevant expertise. A single consultation plus an opinion letter might not cost very much.

But 17 USC 102 (b) is very clear that copyright never protects facts, as are the copyright laws of other countries. Note that reports of the events of sports matches are not protected by copyright, although expressive language and analysis may be.

17 USC 102 (b) reads:

(b) In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work.

Article 2 paragraph (8) of the Berne Copyright Convention provides that:

(8) The protection of this Convention shall not apply to news of the day or to miscellaneous facts having the character of mere items of press information.

There seems little room for copyright protection of the moves of chess games.


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