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Original court cases, documents and articles that relate to Information
Law, and the legal aspects of the Internet.
The Notorious Internet Worm Case.
United States v. Robert Morris, 928 F.2d
504 (2nd Cir. 1991). This is the famous criminal case about the "Worm that
ate the Internet," the college kids' computer virus experiment that went
bad and inadvertently shut down most of the Internet on November 2, 1988.
He was held criminally liable under the Computer Fraud
Act for unauthorized access of other computers even though he had no
intent to do any damage.
Internet Information Liability Cases.
Cubby, Inc. v. CompuServe, Inc., 776 F.Supp.135
(S.D. N.Y. 1991) Landmark cyber-law case shielding CompuServe from liability
for libelous statements posted on one its forums. The court held that CompuServe
was a distributor, not a publisher, since it did not attempt to exercise
editorial control over the contents of the information flowing through
Playboy Enterprises, Inc. v. George Frena,
839 F.Supp. 1552 (M.D. FL. 1993) Another landmark computer-law case imposing
liability on a BBS operator for files that his users had posted on his
board of scanned copies they had made from Playboy magazine. Copyright
infringement for illegal distribution was found even if sysop did not know
the files were on his board, but as you can see from the decision, the
sysop in fact did know, and even put ads for his board on many of the gifs.
Facts Cannot Be Copyrighted Cases.
Feist Publications, Inc. v. Rural Telephone Service
Company, Inc., 916 F.2d 718 (CA 10 1990), reversed. Full Text of
this landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision on Information Law. It stands
for the proposition that "facts cannot be copyrighted." Still, the
original selection and arrangement of facts can be copyrighted.
Here an unanimous Supreme Court held that the alphabetical listing of names
in the white pages of the phone book was not subject to copyright because
it was an unoriginal selection and arrangement of mere facts, the names,
addresses and phone number or everyone in a certain geographical location.
BellSouth Advertising & Publishing Corporation
v. Donnelley Information Publishing, Inc., 999 F2d 1436 (11th Cir.
1993). Important Information and Computer Law case which extends and enlarges
upon Feist to include the Yellow Pages of the phone book as unprotected
"fact." The computer copying and republication of yellow pages was found
to be legal. The sharply divided appellate court in an enbanc rehearing
reversed an earlier decision, provoking a bitter dissent from Circuit Judge
Hatchett. This case significantly broadens the Fiest decisions' "factual
exception" to copyright.
CCC Information Services, Inc. v. MacLean Hunter
Market Reports, Inc., 44 F3d 61 (2nd Cir. 1994). This is a significant
Information and Computer law case which start to put the brakes on Feist.
The computer copying of Red Book car prices was found to be a copyright
violation, not a lawful copying of "mere facts." The car price data compilation
was held to be an "original work of authorship." The "Idea Merger," and
"Public Domain" defenses were also considered and rejected.
Arica v. Palmer 970 F.2d 106 (2nd Cir.).
Another interesting case applying Feist to deny copyright to a system of
psychological insights called by the courts, in semi "tongue in cheek"
fashion, to be mere facts not subject to copyright.
Victor Lalli Enterprises, Inc. v. Big Red Apple,
Inc. 936 F.2d 671 (2nd Cir. 1991). Follows Feist and holds that charts
of horse racing statistics (facts), arranged by functional grids, with
no possibility of variation, lacked sufficient originality to be copyrightable.
Lipton v. The Nature Company 71 F.3d 464 (2nd
Cir. 1995). Follows Feist and holds that the selection and arrangement
of a compilation of animal terms ("terms of venery") was sufficiently original
to warrant copyright protection of the compilation. But the opinion also
held that an injunction entered against the enfringer prohibiting any use
of the copyrighted terms was overbroad, that the injunction should be limited
to the compilation itself, not the individual terms.
The National Basketball Association v. Motorola, Inc.,
65 USLW 2506, 41 USPQ2d 1585 (2nd Cir. (N.Y.), Jan. 30, 1997) Here the
2nd Circuit applies Feist to deny a claim for theft of basketball scores
because the events of the NBA games were facts unprotected by copyright.
However, this opinion suggests that an exception to Feist should exists
for "fresh facts" under an old common law doctrine of misappropriation
of "hot news". In my opinion this an attempt to resurrect the "sweat of
the brow" doctrine rejected by the Supreme Court in Feist, to provide protection
to facts where the facts are new, and their free taking (called "free riding"
by the court) would destroy the economic incentive to gather the facts
in the first place. The 2nd Circuit has added "time and tragedy" as elements
to avoid copyright pre-emption of state law misappropriation claims, and
thus to circumvent Feist. We'll see if any of the other Circuits decide
to follow this idea, or if the Supreme Court will ultimately be persuaded
to allow this exception to Feist. I doubt it.
Publications International v. Meredith Corporation,
88 F.3d 473 (7th Cir. 1996). Applies Feist to cookbooks and holds that
in this case the food recipes were unprotected facts and procedures. The
case involved a compilation of Dannon Yogurt recipes. The decision is very
well written, and has a refreshingly light touch in the description of
the facts of the case. Also note the interesting procedural twists in this
case involving the issuance of a preliminary injunction, reversed on appeal,
where defense counsel for some unexplained reason failed to show up at
the injunction hearing, and the trial Judge granted the injunction in reliance
on an affidavit he had stricken from the record. The decision suggests
the one and only way that recipes are likely to be granted copyright protection
by the courts.
Information as Property Cases.
Carpenter v. United States, 484 U.S.
19, 108 S.Ct. 316, 98 L.Ed.2d 275 (1987). Landmark U. S. Supreme Court
decision affirming that information is property. The criminal conviction
of the Wall Street Journal reporter who wrote the "Heard on the Street"
article was affirmed. The reporter had leaked information to investor friends
as to what his article would say about the value of certain stocks. He
was convicted of obtaining "property" from the Wall Street Journal by a
fraudulent scheme. He defended on the basis that his advance knowledge
of the contents of his articles was not "property," it was an "intangible
right" not subject to the mail fraud law. The Supreme Court rejected this
argument because the newspaper considered all information in its articles
to be confidential prior to publication, and "its intangible nature does
not make it any less "property" protected by the mail and wire fraud statutes."
Bateman v. Mnemonics - Eleventh Circuit
Court of Appeals decision dated March 22, 1996 providing an detailed analysis
of software copyright infringement. The case discusses: (1) the FEIST two
pronged test for copyright infringement; (2) jury instructions; (3) the
"sucessive filtration" test for copyright infringement; (4) compatibility
requirements negating a finding of infringement; (5) interface specifications
copyright; and, (6) trade secret misappropriation where JNOV is entered
on appeal, reversing the judgment for plaintiff, and ordering a new trial
on the copyright infrinmgement counts due to jury instruction errors.
ProCD, Inc. v. Zeidenberg, 86 F.3D 1447
(7th Cir., June 20, 1996). This
phone directory data case is important because it validates the legality
"shrink wrap" software licenses for the first time. This case suggests
similar "on screen acceptance" licenses, now commonly used on the Internet,
may also be upheld as legal someday. The phone directory database at
in this case was not protected by copyright, but was protected by contract.
So the person who published ProCD's phone directories on the Internet
found to have breached the shrink wrap license agreement that came
Communications Decency Act was declared unconstitutional by the United
States Supreme Court and its enforcement enjoined in ACLU
v Reno. First a three judge federal court in Philadelphia declared
the law VOID as a violation of the controlling law of the land - the Constitution.
In so doing they saved the Internet and our rights to free communications
from the excesses of Congress in an election year, 1994. I have selected
some of the best quotes from the lengthy trial
court decision. Next, the Supreme Court of the United States continued
its 200 year tradition of upholding the Constitution, in spite of all of
the political heat from Congress and the President, and affirmed the trial
court's decision. The entire text of the Supreme Court
decision is well worth reading. It is the first decision of the Supreme
Court on the Internet and will effect your rights on the Internet for decades
Congress passed the "Communications Decency"
amendment to the Telecom Bill. It impacted everyone on the Internet and
was a blatant violation of the Free Speech rights of the First Amendment
of the U.S. Constitution. Among other things it purportedly outlawed "...the
transmission of, any comment, request, suggestion, proposal, image, or
other communication which is obscene,lewd, lascivious, filthy, or indecent,
with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass an other person." What
is "indecent information?" Why try and change the Internet into the childrens
room in the library? There are better solutions to protect our children
and the sensitive. The Congress made a colossal mistake. Fortunately, the
Supreme Court once again showed itself to be the backbone of American culture
and rose above the political pressures on the day. The United States Supreme
Court courageously declared the Communications Decency Act unconstitutional.
v Reno. The judicial system and the Constiution have once again preserved
the right to free speech in the United States. The checks and balances
of our legal system continue to work after over 200 years! The Supreme
Court saved the Internet community from the excesses of Congress in an
election year that was attempting to gather votes by pandering to the internet-porno
fears of the public at the expense of our constitutional rights. See the
Frontier Foundation's analysis of this act. Or press
here to read it for yourself.
Constitution of the United States of America (for
your convenience, this is a full text version). This is the law behind
all of the other laws in the U.S. For a hypertext version of the U.S. Constitution,
U.S. Copyright Statutes. Full Text of Title 17 of the Federal Code pertaining
to copyright law (Chapters 1-7 (nota bene: 216k
file), and Chapters 8-10) (nota bene: 82k file).
We have provided these s tatutes in full text format for your convenience.
The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, The
Electronic Communications Privacy Act, The Stored
Wire and Electronic Communications and Transactional Records Act. These
acts are contained in Title 18 of The United States Code, and govern your
cyberspace rights and responsibilities.
- Trademark Act of 1946
(See also, International Resources
on the "Places" page.)
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