Date Tue, 24 Feb 2004 165631 -0500
From David Dailey <david.dailey@sru.edu>
Subject [CNI-(C)] Re H.R. 3261? -- Fine! But don't call them "facts"

At 1115 AM 2/20/2004 -0500, Drew Urbanek wrote

"Has anyone checked out the text of H.R. 3261? It seems to be saying that it will now be permissible to copyright facts, according to the American Library Association. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on this. Thanks."

I have. I don't like it. The Bill would be entitled (if it passes) the "Database and Collections of Information Misappropriation Act" and can be read at http//homepages.law.asu.edu/~dkarjala/cyberlaw/HR3261(10-8-03).htm.

Since cni-copyright got started some years ago (before many of you had even registered your DNA), the Congress of the US, and/or the Executive branch of the government, in collusion with WIPO, have undergone periodic tribulations involving the privatization of "facts" (and perhaps other more frivolous data -- though I was never quite sure which non-factual data the lobbiests were most interested in). In one fit of unbridled cynicism, I declared that "Every year a new bill is introduced; eventually one will pass; few will notice, and fewer will mourn." (see also http//srufaculty.sru.edu/david.dailey/copyright/Database2.htm and http//srufaculty.sru.edu/david.dailey/copyright/database1.htm for allied rants).

Well, I have reconsidered -- or at least I have considered reconsidering. If we wish to weigh, slice, and meter our facts as though they were bowling lines and to license them, rather than to sell or give them away, then fine! But let us restrict the first amendment rights for BOTH sides, fairly. Let us at least require honesty in our advertising. I will agree not to use your "facts," if you agree not to call them "facts." Here's why

If I buy a tub of facts, I wish to be able to dump them out on the floor and stack them. I will wish them to interlock with one another in interesting ways. I wish to be able to sort them into piles and make indexes, concordances, summaries and charts, notwithstanding your definition of "a quantitatively substantial part of the information" (the term from the bill).

If a "fact" does not survive scrutiny under the simplest of tests of a fact -- the ability to be subjected to public scrutiny -- then it cannot be packaged nor advertised as a "fact." Such data may only be called "fact products." (I don't know ... should there be a trademark-pending mark next to that very pleasant-sounding phrase "fact products" (TM -pending) ??)

The FDA will simply have to become the Food, Drug, and Fact Administration.

(Do I get to own it, if that happens?).

David Dailey


A collection of random postings to cni-copyright during the years 1994-. Humor and dread.