Copyright Compendium

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Chapter 2400

313.3 (C) Facts

 

313.3 (C) Facts

Facts are not copyrightable and cannot be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. “No one may claim originality as to facts . . . because facts do not owe their origin to an act of authorship.” Feist, 499 U.S. at 347 (internal citation omitted). A person who finds and records a particular fact does not create that fact; he or she merely discovers its existence. As a result, facts “are never original” and Section 102 (B) of the Copyright Act “is universally understood to prohibit any copyright in facts.” Id. at 356. “[This] is true of all facts – ” scientific, historical, biographical, and news of the day.” Id. at 348.

 

For the same reason, theories, predictions, or conclusions that are asserted to be facts are uncopyrightable, even if the assertion of fact is erroneous or incorrect. See, e.g., Hoehling v. Universal City Studios, Inc., 618 F.2d 972, 978-79 (2d Cir. 1980); Nash v. CBS, Inc., 899 F.2d 1537, 1541 (7th Cir. 1990).

 

Although facts are not copyrightable, a work of authorship that contains factual information may be registered, provided that the work contains a sufficient amount of original authorship. For example, a newspaper may be registered, but the registration does not cover “[t]he news element – ” the information respecting current events contained in the [publication],” because the news of the day “is not the creation of the writer, but is a report of matter that ordinarily are publici juris.” International News Service v. Associated Press, 248 U.S. 215, 234 (1918) abrogated on other grounds by Erie Railroad Co. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 58 (1938). Likewise, “a directory that contains absolutely no protectable written expression, only facts,” may be protected by copyright only “if it features an original selection or arrangement.” Feist, 499 U.S. at 348. The copyright in such works only protects the compilation expression that the author contributed to the work. “No matter how original the format . . . the facts themselves do not become original through association.” Id. at 349.