Automated Databases Not Copyrighted?

In the recent case of Telstra Corporation Limited v Phone Directories Company Pty Ltd [2010] FCA 44, the Full Federal Court held that computer generated databases are not protected by copyright laws as these do not add any literary value or human authorship to the original literary work.


Telstra created a compilation from a database through an automated system. These compilations were Yellow and Whitepages directories. These directories contained information about individuals and businesses. All such information is already provided in the database by the individuals and business entities – Telstra just uses computer software to make the presentation of listings.


The main issue that circled around this case was whether the computer generated compilations were copyright protected. There were other secondary issues revolving around the computer software.


The Court found that the computer generated compilations of Telstra were not copyright protected as the compilations were produced through an automated computer process. The absence of any human authorial input in those compilations to prove its originality and claim copyright protection was crucial to the claim. This meant that the directories were not subject to copyright protection.


The decision of this case does not stop at phone directories. It extends to include any compilation of factual data created by software from a database. It will affect all those business organizations and individuals that publish factual works through automated computer processes or create compilations or databases of information. This may include television companies, directories services for employment, sporting fixture lists, timetables, car sales, gig guides, real estate etc. It has been recommended that a new law that particularly protects databases in such instances, should be created