Copyright Only Creativity
The proposal could have severe consequences for free access to data.Bad ideas never die; they just return in proposed legislation. The latest bad idea to reappear is a plan in Congress to extend copyright protection to databases of compiled factual information. The idea behind this proposed legislation, the Database and Collections of Information Misappropriation Act, is this: If a company has taken the time to compile factual informationfor example, the addresses of Catholic schools in an area or a compendium of legal decisions or government regulationsinto a catalog or database, that company should be able to prevent others from copying this work. Theres just one thing: The information in these compilations is publicly available and isnt creative work, for which copyright protection is reserved. The proposed legislation could have severe consequences for the publics right to access information freely. This is especially true for government information to which the public is guaranteed access by law. The courts have previously ascertained this danger and shot down copyright protection for such noncreative, sweat-of-the-brow work.
Fortunately, theres an impressive array of opposition to these proposed bills, including such unlikely allies as consumer rights groups and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. These groups understand that the proposed legislation threatens public rights and many legitimate businesses, including Google.com, Yahoo.com, portals and publishers who provide useful data relative to a given business, and will provide no benefit to society.