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Re: [ontolog-forum] Copyright in Taxonomies: Leading case in US law (ADA

To: "[ontolog-forum] " <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "Peter F Brown (Pensive)" <Peter@xxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 28 Oct 2010 10:55:41 -0700
Message-id: <CCFAAA135DF6554F92BACD35A80653D70AEE9A55AF@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>

I can’t say that I share the excitement on this thread! It seems to be an open-and-shut case.


All classification systems are human-created and none reflect any “natural” objective truth or set of “facts”. Easterbrook obviously studied his Lakoff properly.


Neither should we confuse copyright with the right to copy or making copies available free of charge. It is the essential claim of authorship (“creator”) that copyright upholds.


I did like the quote: “Creation by committee is an oxymoron” – should be a warning to us all!





From: ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Simon Spero
Sent: Wednesday, 27 October, 2010 14:38
To: [ontolog-forum]
Subject: [ontolog-forum] Copyright in Taxonomies: Leading case in US law (ADA v. Delta Dental)


Some people have  suggested that I post a pointer to the decision in "AMERICAN DENT. ASSN. v. DELTA DEN. PLANS ASSN., F,3D 977 (7th Cir, 1997)"

The opinion is from the 7th circuit  (the cool IP circuit :-) 


Opinion was written by  Easterbrook, but Posner can't write them all. Well, he could if he wanted to, but he probably had to rescue Chuck Norris, or something.




[1] This case presents the question whether a taxonomy is copyrightable. [...]

[4] Any original literary work may be copyrighted. The necessary degree of "originality" is low, and the work need not be aesthetically pleasing to be "literary." Feist Publications, Inc v. Rural Telephone Service Co.499 U.S. 340, 345-46 (1991). Term papers by college sophomores are as much within the domain of copyright as Saul Bellow's latest novel. See Bleistein v. Donaldson Lithographing Co.188 U.S. 239 (1903). Scholarship that explicates important facts about the universe likewise is well within this domain. Einstein's articles laying out the special and general theories of relativity were original works even though many of the core equations, such as the famous E = mc^2, express "facts" and therefore are not copyrightable. Einstein could have explained relativity in any of a hundred different ways; another physicist could expound the same principles differently.

[5] So too with a taxonomy - of butterflies, legal citations, or dental procedures. Facts do not supply their own principles of organization. Classification is a creative endeavor. Butterflies may be grouped by their color, or the shape of their wings, or their feeding or breeding habits, or their habitats, or the attributes of their caterpillars, or the sequence of their DNA; each scheme of classification could be expressed in multiple ways. Dental procedures could be classified by complexity, or by the tools necessary to perform them, or by the parts of the mouth involved, or by the anesthesia employed, or in any of a dozen different ways. The Code's descriptions don't "merge with the facts" any more than a scientific description of butterfly attributes is part of a butterfly. Cf. Nash v. CBS, Inc., 899 F.2d 1537 (7th Cir. 1990) (discussing the fact-_expression_ dichotomy). There can be multiple, and equally original, biographies of the same person's life, and multiple original taxonomies of a field of knowledge. Creativity marks the _expression_ even after the fundamental scheme has been devised. This is clear enough for the long description of each procedure in the ADA's Code. The long description is part of the copyrighted work, and original long descriptions make the work as a whole copyrightable. But we think that even the short description and the number are original works of authorship.


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