Wednesday, 12 October 2011

An Australian Feist

Copyright in compilations remains a thorny issue, and if I needed reminding of it the other week explaining it to Russian law students certainly worked. Databases that aren't compilations, and vice versa - we are into the realm of metaphysics here.

Feist, SCOTUS's last word (as far as I know) on the subject of copyright in compilations (in suit, an alphabetical telephone directory for part of rural Kansas where I imagine telephones are few and far between, people likewise), was the death-knell for the "sweat of the brow" test, one of those graphic expressions that American lawyers use to the delight of legal dictionary-writers. In Telstra Corporation Limited & Anor v Phone Directories Company Pty Ltd & Ors [2011] HCATrans 248 (2 September 2011) the High Court of Australia has taken what seems to be a similar step, and given the close connection between Australian and English law this might be more important for us than Feist was.

The case raises interesting points about the need to identify the author or authors, and about the effect of using a computer. It has always struck me that making an alphabetical list using a computer is extremely unlikely to result in any sweat on one's brow. Read the interesting review of the points on Mallesons' IP Whiteboard blawg.

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