If I copy information from a business directory to create my own busiess directory is this legal?

Although this information would not be copyrighted I understand that a database can be copyrighted. I hope you can clarify.

Asked on September 19, 2012 under Business Law, Pennsylvania


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

The underlying information, if it is not original (i.e. comes from or is available from other sources) is not copyrightable and may be used by another. What is copyrightable and may not be used is:

1) Any editorial work or judgment that went into modifying the information, such as for clarity.

2) The layout or arrangement.

3) Any graphical elements.

So, simple example: take the phone book white pages. The names, addresses, and phone numbers can be reproduced by someone else. But that person cannot simply pick up the pages verbatim and copy them or post them online, since that would involve taking layout and editorial work.

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