January 22, 2008

what is originality?

“Originality is the art of concealing your sources”
Benjamin Franklin

What moves those of genius, what inspires their work is not new ideas, but their obsession with the idea that what has already been said is still not enough.” Eugene Delacroix

threshold of originality
Threshold of originality is a limit in copyright law which separates copyrightable works from non-copyrightable works based on the principle that only original works could qualify as intellectual property. In United States copyright law, this principle was invoked in the ruling of the United States Supreme Court in the court case Feist Publications v. Rural Telephone Service in 1991. The court opinion stated that copyrights only be granted to "works of authorship" meeting this minimum threshold of originality, as such, mere labor, if not original, was not copyrightable.

The law interpretation was derived from the Copyright Clause of the United States Constitution which grants Congress the power to "promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries."

This requirement sets a very low bar for originality under U.S. law; advertisements and maps are protected. But the expression of some obvious methods of compilation and computation such as the Yellow Pages or blank forms cannot receive a copyright, demonstrated in Morrissey v. Procter & Gamble.[1] However, if a work without the minimal requirements for originality contains some copyrightable elements - a paragraph describing the Yellow Pages or random designs on the blank forms - those elements are protected with a thin copyright.

The meaning of "originality" in that context may be misleading and needs to be clarified: in that case, it is not[2] "never having occurred or existed before" (which would amount to the protection of something new, like in patent protection), but "coming from someone as the originator / author" (insofar as it somehow reflects this author's personality).strong>


Posted by faraz at January 22, 2008 11:28 PM