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January 7, 2011
Copyrights in a List
A list that is a mere compilation is generally not copyrightable. However, various specialized lists can be copyrighted either by virtue of their arrangement (e.g. lists of court cases) or by virtue of their unusual content.
A few days ago Eugene Volokh pointed to a (dare I use the word) unique list - Schindler's List - and a copyright dispute surrounding it. Volokh quotes extensively from the court's decision in the case, known as Rosenberg v. Zimet which concerns questions of who holds copyright in that famous list.
I had thought that the only copy of the List was at the Holocaust Museum in Israel. It turns out that another List had been found and the question at hand is whether the person in possession of that List may publish or sell it, or whether it rightfully belongs to Schindler's heir, as one of his possessions. The Court's decision turns on questions of different varieties of copyright law (common law vs federal) and whether any rights to publication carry with possession of the list, which it seems clear they do not.
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