What protection remains for compilations of information, particularly digital databases, since the United States Supreme Court swept away "sweat copyright" in its 1991 Feist decision? "Thin" copyright protection is still available, but it covers only the original contributions (if any) that the compiler brings to the public domain information. Moreover, Feist makes clear that padding the compilation with original added value will not flesh out the skeletal figure beneath: the information, stripped of selection, arrangement, or other copyrightable frills, remains free for the taking.
If copyright is unavailing, contract is appearing more promising, as mass-market, "shrinkwrap" and "click-on" licenses gain acceptance. Indeed, if contractual protection of compiled information persists unpreempted by federal copyright law or policy, it may provide more effective protection than did copyright.
Common Law | Intellectual Property Law | Law
Jane C. Ginsburg,
Copyright, Common Law, and Sui Generis Protection of Databases in the United States and Abroad,
U. Cin. L. Rev.
Available at: https://scholarship.law.columbia.edu/faculty_scholarship/4032