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10A compilations

Where to Look in the Law

1909 Act: §6
1947 Act: §7
1976 Act: §§103, 201(c), 304(a), 404, 408(c)

Copyright Office Publications for Laymen

FL 104

“[A] separate contribution to a collective work may bear its own notice of copyright, and in some cases, it may be advantageous to utilize the separate notice. As a practical matter, a separate notice will inform the public of the identity of the owner of the contribution. For works first published before March 1, 1989, there may be additional reasons to use a separate notice. If the owner of the collective work is not the same as the owner of an individual contribution that does not bear its own notice, the contribution is considered to bear an erroneous notice. (For the effects of a notice with the wrong name, see ‘Error in Name’ on page 5 of this circular.) Additionally, if an individual author of contributions to a periodical wishes to make a single registration for a group of contributions published within a 12-month period, each contribution must carry its own notice.”  (Information Circular 3)

What the Courts Ruled


Central Telephone Company of Virginia vs Johnson Publishing Co.

USDC, D.Colo. (10-15-1981)

In creating its own yellow pages directory, Johnson Publishing used clippings from their established competitor (Yellow Pages of Central Telephone) as examples when it sent solicitations to potential advertisers to take out ads. Central Telephone sued.  The Court ruled that Yellow Pages of Central Telephone was a compilation which did not have copyright on individual ads.  The Yellow Pages were not infringed.

(The same decision determined that the Central Telephone white pages were infringed.   Called unfair competition, this aspect is under financial considerations.)


Stuart Y. Silverstein vs Penguin Putnam, Inc.

USCA 2nd Cir. (5-7-2004) ¤ 368 F.3d 77, 70 U.S.P.Q.2D (BNA) 1773

Dorothy Parker selected from her many poems three volumes of collections which she published in her lifetime.  Stuart Y. Silverstein “mined chiefly from old magazines and newspapers” to publish in 1996 a book of 122 of her poems that had not appeared in the three volumes.  (Two of the poems had never been published.)  “Silverstein claims copyright in the selection and arrangement of those poems.”  “In 1999, Penguin issued Dorothy Parker: Complete Poems, which is composed of the three volumes published by Mrs. Parker plus all but one of the uncollected poems in Silverstein’s book, which are chronologically arranged at the back.”  (Silverstein’s arrangement had been subjective.)

Had Penguin “taken any creative input by Silverstein that is more than trivial”?  The Court judged that “the right asserted by Silverstein is too slight to support an injunction against publication of the Penguin volume: Silverstein holds no copyright in the poems themselves; Penguin has not used Silverstein’s arrangement; and the chief principle of Silverstein’s selection—that the poems previously had not been collected—reflects an exercise of judgment by Mrs. Parker, not by Silverstein.”

Silverstein argued that his endeavors entailed finding poems published under Parker’s pseudonyms and his willingness to publish six items that an expert on Parker regards not as poems but as literary works belonging to other categories.  Nonetheless, such was merely enough to persuade the Appeals Court to pause before issuing the same verdict it otherwise would have (on this aspect of the case):

“The assembly of a complete collection may entail judgments as to variants, attributions, juvenilia, etc.  But Penguin evidently did nothing other than publish all the poems it could find in print.  To the extent Silverstein’s compilation was a selection by him from some larger body of poems, or a creative designation of a work as poetry that might otherwise be deemed something else, Silverstein gave no notice or warning.  The only principle of selection he identified was completeness, insofar as his diligent labor could achieve it.  But ‘all’ is not a selection.

“The clear impression conveyed by Not Much Fun [Silverstein’s collection of otherwise-uncollected Parker] is that there was no other principle of selection at work.”

(The Appeals Court was willing to entertain that Silverstein could have had some eligibility for judgment in his favor, owing to his categorization: “Whether and to what extent he holds such rights depends upon the degree to which his efforts involved the requisite creativity and were, viewing his collection as a whole, more than de minimis.  We therefore vacate the permanent injunction, reverse the district court’s grant of summary judgment on the copyright claim, and remand for further proceedings.”)

(Another aspect of this case, concerning Silverstein’s “changes in punctuation, capitalization, indentation, and titling,” is summarized under originality is a prerequisite for copyright.)

Cases Summarized in Other Sections

Edward B. Marks Music Corporation vs Jerry Vogel Music Co. (launch this) decided the rights in a song that was a joint work although the circumstances resembled that of a compilation.

Richard Feiner and Co. vs Passport Productions, Inc. and Diamond Entertainment Corp. (launch this) pitted a copyright holder against the maker and distributor of a compilation videotape that had used clips (without authorization) from the coming-attractions trailers to earlier compilations which in turn had legitimately copied from the original films.

Emily Kimbrough Wrench vs Universal Pictures Co., Inc. et al (launch this) concerns magazine articles that had been properly copyrighted although the compilation in which they were later published had incomplete date information in its copyright notice.

Roy Export Company Establishment of Vaduz, Liechtenstein, Black, Inc., A.G., Filmverhuurkantoor De Dam B.V., and rbc Films vs Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc. (launch this) concerns well-known films edited into a compilation which was then shown within another compilation (with authorization) and then another (without).

Dastar Corp. vs Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. et al. (launch this) concerned the public-domain material within a compilation being reproduced in another product although the new copyrighted material was excluded.

Kane vs Pennsylvania Broadcasting Co. (launch this) decided that the copyright-holder of “Famous First Facts” books owned the right to his compilation but did not own the (bare) facts contained in them.




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