Is there copyright in a directory produced by a computer? The Telstra case

The Full Court of Australia released it’s decision in the Telstra Corporation Limited v Phone Directories Company Pty Ltd [2010] FCAFC 149 case. It dismissed Telstra’s appeal.

The case examined whether white and yellow pages directories are protected by copyright when the original efforts of creating a work are produced through a computerized process.

The Court acknowledged that after the High Court decision in the IceTV case that a work is only original if it is the result of some intellectual effort. Sweat of the brow is no longer enough, as it is not in Canada under CCH or in other countries such as the US under Feist.

The Court went on to rule that the mechanical application of rules and the mere use of a computer to produce a work does not give rise to an original work, by the users of the computer or their employers, in this case Telstra.

Telstra did not establish that it was the owner of an original computer program which produced the database used to create the directories. The Court did not decide, and left open, whether copyright could have subsisted in the directories by reason of the intellectual creation that went into producing the software. It is unclear from reading the decision why Telstra did not try and establish that the directories were original computer generated works produced through the original efforts of creating rules and software that resulted in such works.

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2 thoughts on “Is there copyright in a directory produced by a computer? The Telstra case”

  1. Lex says:

    This seems a complete backflip on the finding in Telstra V Desktop Marketing systems (2003). Any thoughts on what has changed?

  2. You are right. The High Court in the IceTV case made it clear they did not agree with the Desktop case on the standard of originality. The Full Court followed the very strong dicta of the High Court.

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