Can a list or compilation be protected by copyright in certain cases?

  • What definition of "list" are you assuming. For instance: a dictionary could be classified as a list, so could a thesaurus.
    – user6726
    Commented Dec 19, 2022 at 22:48

2 Answers 2


To consider whether something is infringing a copyright, one must consider what protected work it might infringe.

In general, for a list to be protected it must have originality (which is not quite the same as creativity) in the wording of individual list items, in the selection of itms for the list, or in the order of the list.

A selection of popular items as determined by a survey or some third party, listed in order of popularity would not have any originality.

A list of "best popular songs" according to the judgement of the compiler would be original in selection, and probably in order.

In the classic case Feist v Rural it was held that a phone book listing everyone in an area, in alphabetical order, had no originality.

In general if the list compiler uses judgement in pickings the items, or in arranging them then those choices are protectable, and imitating them may well be infringing. But the factual content of individual items may be used by anyone.


There are jurisdictions, e.g. , where the creation of a database can considered a protected work to protect the investment by the creator. That means basically two people could compile a list of weather data or phone numbers, but one cannot just copy from the other.