First published August 8, 2012.
My über-sharp friend Oliver Herzfeld, moving up in the world, has written an article in Forbes magazine on a recent Copyright Office policy statement that, as he puts it, “revises, and to a certain extent reverses, its prior position regarding the protection of compilations.” Oliver sums up the changes. Here’s, via excerpts, a summary of the summary:
The U.S. Copyright Act defines a compilation as “a work formed by the collection and assembling of preexisting materials or of data that are selected, coordinated or arranged in such a way that the resulting work as a whole constitutes an original work of authorship.” The preexisting materials may be items that are independently uncopyrightable such as facts, figures, data or processes (since the intent of copyright law is to protect creative expression but not raw information by itself). The key is that the selection, coordination and arrangement of the materials must express a minimum amount of originality and creativity such that the resulting work is copyrightable as a whole. . . .
Works of authorship that can be protected by U.S. copyright law are currently limited to the following eight established categories. . . The categories are non-exclusive, but only the U.S. Congress may create new categories. Congress did not delegate that authority to the courts or the Copyright Office.
Although a compilation may be based on the selection, coordination or arrangement of uncopyrightable elements (such as facts or data), must those elements relate to the foregoing categories of authorship or could they relate to other categories? In other words, could the selection, coordination or arrangement of uncopyrightable subject matter constitute a protectable compilation? After a lengthy analysis, the Copyright Office concludes that to be copyrightable, a compilation must relate to one of the eight established categories. So a collection of 100 rocks would not be protected by copyright since rocks are not protectable subject matter. However, a list of the names of an author’s 100 favorite rocks would be a protectable compilation since such a list may be considered a literary work.
Applying these principles, the Copyright Office determines that yoga poses, exercise routines and social dance moves do not fall within the congressionally-established categories of authorship. . . .
Depressing… all the decades of work I put into the unique choreographic creations of the Ron Coleman Dancers! I wouldn’t say too much about my fancy footwork, but they don’t call me LIKELIHOOD OF CONFUSION for nothing, believe me.
What exactly is the link between dance steps and the like and this Copyright Office determination regarding compilations? Read More…