Internet Law  «Prev 

Feist Publications, Inc. v Rural Telephone Service Company

In 1991 the U.S. Supreme Court heard the case of Feist Publications, Inc. v. Rural Telephone Service Company. In that case, Feist and Rural Telephone both published telephone directories that competed for advertisers. The Feist telephone directory covered 15 counties, one of which included the Rural Telephone service area. Rural refused to license its telephone directory information to Feist; therefore, Feist copied the Rural telephone directory information.

The court's decision

The court sided with Feist, and held that copyright protection afforded to databases (which was how Rural presented its directory information to the court) was thin, extending only to the author's selection and arrangement of the data. The court also held that listing the names and numbers of all subscribers in a telephone service area in alphabetical order does not satisfy the minimum "original work of authorship"requirement for copyright protection.

Internet Law

Consequences of the court's decision

As a consequence of the Feist decision, businesses that create and maintain databases currently have very limited protection under United States copyright laws. That protection now covers only the original selection, coordination, and arrangement of data, but not the data itself. Furthermore, the selection, coordination, and arrangement are protected only to the extent that they satisfy the creativity requirement of being an "original work of authorship."

Information Infrastructure Task Force (IITF)

In 1993, the Information Infrastructure Task Force (IITF) was formed. The IITF has established a working group on intellectual property rights to examine issues pertinent to intellectual property. In July 1994, the group published the Green Paper, a preliminary report on intellectual property rights. This group has recognized the need to review current copyright laws in light of the fact that copying and disseminating information are easy with electronic media.