Tuesday, April 30, 2002

Data mine or yours?

Now, say that one of the analysts in your company combines some of the facts in that commercial database with facts from other sources and develops a new database she calls the "XYZ Combined Database." She distributes this to coworkers. Later, your company decides to make the XYZ Combined Database available to third parties. Is your company's internal use of the XYZ Combined Database illegal? What about its distribution to people outside the company?

According to Feist Publications Inc. vs. Rural Telephone Service Co. Inc. 499 U.S. 340 (1991), a U.S. Supreme Court decision, both the use and the commercial distribution of your XYZ Combined Database would be permitted, as long as you have only "extracted" facts from the commercial database you used to help compile it—and as long as you have not copied an original, copyrightable selection or arrangement of those facts.

In Feist, the Supreme Court held that although copyright protects the original selection and arrangement of a compilation of facts, it does not protect the facts themselves, even though the compiler of the collection may have invested substantial funds, labor or both in collecting and compiling them.

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