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Content, Writing and Copyright Forum

Compiling a Database without Violating Rights
Building a list without getting in trouble...

 9:45 pm on Jan 3, 2007 (gmt 0)

I want to develop a directory in a particular niche. There are several competing directories already, but none of them appear to have a comprehensive list of widget companies.

I should point out that these directories are in the U.S., the widget companies are in the U.S. (mostly) and my site would be in the U.S. (I think some countries have different protections for databases?)

For example, Directory A might have a database of 20 widget companies. Directory B has 30 widget companies and Directory C has 40 widget directories. Discounting duplicates, that yields say 50 widget companies in total.

If I follow the old rule of thumb (for writing) that something is a "fact" if it can be found in three separate sources, then could I only use widget companies that would be found on each of the three sites? In which case, I may end up with 30 widget companies.

Or, is everything here considered a fact, so that I could use all 50 widget companies in my directory? The only data I am looking at is the contact information: name, address, phone, email, web site. Not any written content, like summaries or reviews. But, may include data as to the type of widget they produce/sell. If would presume that whether or not they produce blue or green or red widgets is also factual data, no?

My strategy would be to use these directories, as well as SE searches, to develop the initial database of widget companies. From there, visit each widget company's web site and verify/update the data. Then, write my own summations, reviews, whatever, etc. Then, put it on my web site.

Are there any problems here? Or, do I need a different approach?



 7:53 am on Jan 9, 2007 (gmt 0)

Sounds like you are doing your own research - and i don't think there is any problem with that.

I'd also ensure that your formatting of addresses and tel numbers are consistent too.

Good luck.


 10:33 pm on Jan 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

If it is in 3 different databases, it is not a fact.

Use the database to contact the company and get the information directly from them. Then you are using the database for research, in no way copying the information from them.


 11:59 pm on Jan 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

I love hearing bad legal advice - the 3 source rule sounds like really bad legal advice.

A fact is something that exists in the universe, regardless of how many sources say it does exist.

Your only concern when building your database of widgets is to use your own sources in compiling the information. You cannot copy anyone else's database to create your own.


 12:06 am on Jan 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

In my ever so humble non-legal opinion,

- Garnering information from copyrighted sources as a starting point for completely unique content = research.

- Republishing the garnered information as is = copyright infringement.



 6:21 pm on Jan 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

So, basically, if my ultimate source for the data is the actual source, regardless of where I initially found that source, then I'm okay?

For example, let's say I find this information in Directory A:

Widgets Inc.
123 Any Street
Anytown, Somestate 00000
(555) 123-4567
Fax (555) 123-4568

Now, I go to www.widgets.dom (or email or phone in the absence of a web site), and I find their contact page and I find this information:

Widgets Inc.
123 Any Street
Anytown, Somestate 00000
(555) 123-4567
Fax (555) 123-4568

And, I enter that into my database.

Since I took the data straight from the source (i.e. Widgets Inc.), and entered that data into my database, then it is immaterial where I initially found Widgets Inc. and also immaterial that Directory A's database has the exact same information. Right?

So long as my final data source is the actual source (i.e. the company or organization itself, and not a third party), then it's not an issue where I originally found the company?


 6:40 pm on Jan 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

Correct ccDan, with one caveat.

While the facts in a database can't be copyrighted, the editorial discretion that went into selecting those facts can make the database as a whole copyrightable.

For example, a database that lists all widget manufacturers is not copyrightable. But, a database of all manufacturers sorted by how attractive their ceo is may be.


 7:14 pm on Jan 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

As always, the best bet is to first go to the source, Copyright Registration for Automated Databases [copyright.gov], to at least get an initial reading of the situation.


 5:48 am on Jan 23, 2007 (gmt 0)

It sounds like you're in the clear. Stajer has it right: US Copyright law doesn't care how much "sweat of the brow" is involved in creating a list. Only creative works get copyright. So, don't steal the presentation or any subjective information, and you should be able to defend you work. See Feist Publications v. Rural Telephone Service [en.wikipedia.org]

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