Telstra's mostly automated method of creating a compilation
from a database means that the resulting compilation is not
protected by the Copyright Act because the compilation is not a
literary work originating in the intellectual effort of an
individual (Telstra Corporation Limited v Phone Directories
Company Pty Ltd  FCAFC 149).
In rejecting Telstra's appeal the Full Federal Court has
confirmed that the output from databases is unlikely to be
protected by copyright without some intellectual effort or exercise
of skill and judgment.
Why Telstra's directories aren't protected by
Telstra and Sensis produce the Yellowpages and Whitepages
directories from a database. The information in the directories is
(mostly) rolled over from last year's. Changed or new
information about individuals and businesses will be entered into a
database by different people, some of whom are not employees but
contractors, or even automatically by the computer system.
As the information is entered into the database, the computer
system automatically checks that it complies with Telstra's
rules that control the content and presentation of listings.
The actual compilation (that is, the selection of data and its
arrangement in the final form of a directory) occurs at a
production stage, using computer software and automated
This lack of human involvement in the production of the
compilation was fatal to the claim that it was an original literary
work, and hence meant that the directories were not protected by
in front of the trial judge and on appeal.
Who does this affect?
This decision does not just affect phone directories, but
any compilation of factual material produced by software
from a database.
This might include sporting fixture lists, television program
guides, gig guides, timetables and the like.
This might not be a total solution, however. There are doubts as
to the extent of the protection offered by the European
Community's Database Directive (96/9/EC); last week the UK
Supreme Court referred a case to the European Court of Justice to
decide if football fixture lists were protected (Football
Dataco Ltd & Ors v Yahoo! UK Ltd & Ors  EWCA Civ
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