Copyrights of Factual Creations

By Jeffrey E. Jacobson, Esq.

Copyrights do not protect facts or ideas; rather, they protect the expression of them.  Consequently, the fact that Columbus discovered America is not protectable by copyright.  However, the fanciful expression that “Columbus sailed the Ocean Blue in fourteen hundred ninety two” may be.

Factual compilations used to be protected by the “sweat of the brow” theory.  Today, only the arrangement and novel depiction of factual works will gain copyright protection.  In the analog society, the “White Page” telephone directories were collections of facts protected under that “sweat of the brow” theory.  This means that the “sweat” and work put into compiling and creating the database was sufficient to obtain copyright protection in the finished work. Now, such a work is only able to obtain copyright protection if there is a novel arrangement in these factual collections.

Additionally, the development and compiling of a database typically requires significant investment on the part of the party involved.  Generally, a database may not be copyrightable since they are viewed as a mere compilation of facts.  Thus, while they are valuable compilations; in order to obtain copyright protection for a compiled database, some creative thought or design is required.

This article is not intended as legal advice, as an attorney and/or other professional specializing in the field should be consulted.  Attorney advertising.  Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

© 2018 The Jacobson Firm, P.C.

About the author

Justin M. Jacobson, Esq. - Vice-President, The Jacobson Firm, P.C. - Attorney Specializing in Entertainment, Sports, Esports, Fashion and Art Law. In particular, The Jacobson Firm, P.C. handles Trademarks, Copyrights, Contracts, Estate Planning, Music Business and Brand Development on behalf of creative talent and lifestyle brands.

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