Can I copyright a collection of quotes selected and edited for a specific illustrative purpose?

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Can I copyright a collection of quotes selected and edited for a specific illustrative purpose?

I own a website, *******.com, which illustrates famous people’s personality types by providing quotes by each person. We also have a distinctive layout. We handpick and edit the quotes to highlight salient features of their personality. The collection and editing of quotes for the purpose of illustrating how that person is a given personality type is therefore unique to my website.Now **********.com has plagiarized my site, providing the exact same quotes in the same layout for the same purpose. My question is whether that is legal or an infringement of my copyright?

Asked on June 16, 2012 under Business Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

What you can copyright and therefore protect from infringement is:

1) your specific layout and design;

2) your specific edits or annotations, (or, for foreign quotes), translations) of the quotes.

What you can't copyright are the quotes themselves. So, to take an example inspired by the upcoming "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" film: you could not copyright the Gettysburg address or prevent someone else from publishing it. But if your version starts "Four score and seven years ago [since a score is twenty years, this is a poetic way of saying 87 years ago]" and is laid out in a particular, unique fashion, no one could copy the exact edited or annotated , uniquely laid out, version you published. They could go to the original, which is public domain, and come up with their own published version.

So from what you write, there may be infringement and you may have a claim, if they are copying your site directly. You should speak in greater detail with an intellectual property attorney.


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