Copy Right, Copy Sense



Bellsouth vs. Donnelley

Burrow-Giles Lithographic Co. v. Sarony

Copyright CodeA Linked Index

Feist Publications vs. Rural Telephone

Peter Veeck versus Southern Building Code Congress International Inc.,

Publications International  v. Meredith Corporation

Trade-Mark Cases, 100 U.S. 82 (1879)

U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 8

Information on this site cannot be considered legal advice.  If you need legal advice on copyright, please consult an attorney or refer to one or more of the sponsor links on the right side of the page. Another place you might look is the US Copyright Office web site.

The copyright information on this site applies to U.S. Copyright, unless otherwise stated.

Licenses and Notices

Licenses and notices associated with copyrighted material generally stipulate how the user may use the work. In some instances, licenses may grant uses that are generally reserved for the copyright owner. In other instances, they warn about the potential consequences of misuse.

Occasionally, a copyright owner may include a license or notice that claims ownership in some rights or material that is not theirs.

Examples of licenses and notices:

Warning: For sale or rental for private home use in the USA and Canada only. Federal law provides severe civil and criminal penalties for the unauthorized reproduction, distribution, or exhibition of copyrighted motion picture, video tapes or video discs.

Warning: This program is intended solely for noncommercial, private home use.  All other uses including but not limited to duplication, broadcast by any means, and all forms of public display are strictly prohibited.

Article1 - License Grant:

XYZ Corporation grants you a license:

  1. To use the program on a single machine.
  2. To make archival back-up copies of the program in support of your use of the single program on a single machine.
  3. To modify the program and/or merge it into another program for use on a single machine.
  4. To transfer the program to another party if that party...

Example of a license statement that may claim more than what is owned under copyright:

You may not:

  1. Reproduce, publish, distribute, or sell any data on the XYZ compact disks.

In the particular instance that this example is derived from, the CDs are data disks containing genealogical data supposedly entered by the company’s employees as well as a large amount of data that was submitted by customers and other private individuals.

  • The data is primarily factual in nature
  • The data is arranged in standard genealogical order and format which is the same that is used in its genealogical software that it sells to the public.
  • There is no special selection of data.
  • Almost all of the data is submitted by private individuals who use the company’s software.

The company, on the other hand, states:

We start with information dispersed in public and private records. Then, our professional staff adds value to that data by selecting which records and data fields to compile, filling in missing or incomplete areas, interpreting ambiguous information, arranging their compilation in a unique format, and adding retrieval software to make the data easy  to search. These five points produce a work that is original enough to merit a copyright.

On the CDs that I have, virtually all of the material on the CD originates from private individuals, who retain their own copyright for any originality in the work that they submitted. The company has actually contributed very little.  Yet, through their license and copyright statements, they seem to lay claim to copyright for all of the material, including the facts and the material that has been submitted by private users.

 It appears to me that the company is trying to reap the reward for the work that went into the compilation. This concept, known as “sweat of the brow” or “industrious collection” was tossed out by the Supreme Court in 1991 in the Feist vs. Rural Telephone case.

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Copyright Fundamentals for Genealogy

My Copyright was Infringed!

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Copyright Claims That Just Ain't So


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Authors Labor

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Civil or Criminal?



Copyright Facts

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Foreign Works

From Creation


Inadvertent Infringement


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Not Everything Protected






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© 2005, Michael Goad