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The Courts Math

Copyright Ruling On Publishing Calculated Results: Common Sense Breaks Out 54

bfwebster writes "During the past few years, I served as an IT expert witness in BanxCorp v. Costco et al., in which BanxCorp sued Costco and Capital One for citing (with credit) its web-published national averages for CD and money market rates in their advertising. Judge Kenneth M. Karas issued his summary judgment opinion last fall, finding that BanxCorp's published averages are 'uncopyrightable facts' due to the simple calculation involved and the lack of ongoing human judgment in what banks were involved. Here is my summary of his findings, along with a link to the actual ruling."
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Copyright Ruling On Publishing Calculated Results: Common Sense Breaks Out

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  • Average (Score:5, Funny)

    by James McGuigan ( 852772 ) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @10:32AM (#46333669) Homepage

    Its a rather average ruling

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @10:50AM (#46333855)

    Wolfram alpha claims most notably claims copyright for all it's results, even when it is a simple mathematical calculation, or simple english to metric conversion.

  • Namely of trying to use copyright to bury inconvenient facts.

    If that would have stood, it would have been trivial to squelch reporting you don't want to happen. Just report it first, then take it out of circulation before it can hit the internet. Afterwards, anyone who tries to tell the world how you fucked up would have been open to a lawsuit.

  • by houghi ( 78078 ) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @11:06AM (#46334051)

    This is between companies, so the laws are differently, or at least interpreted differently.

    Now try that with a company on one side and an individual on the other side. Now switch sides.

    Logic would say that there would be no differnce. The reality would be differnt.

    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      Except people have one these exact types of cases many times.

      in fact, if I ran Banxcorp I would seriously consider getting new lawyers for even trying to sue over this type of thing.
      Well, no. I guess if I was BanxCorp, I wouldn't have told my lawyers to sue over it.
      Great now I wonder if the lawyer took their own initiative or if there was a meeting where the CEO/Board insisted the lawyers sue.
      hmm.. I guess if I was a share holder I would want to know what happened and through the responsible party out.

      • by u38cg ( 607297 )
        More like their lawyers assembled a case, made some arguments, pointed out it would be difficult but there was a case that could be pleaded, the suits realised that if they won they would have something valuable on their hands, and decided to take a punt.
  • by kjshark ( 312401 ) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @11:11AM (#46334103) Journal

    I withdraw my application to copyright arithmetic.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      not quite the same, but funny never-the-less....

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I should be able to rip all of the map tiles I want, it's just math on public data.

    • by PRMan ( 959735 )
      It would be if it were accurate. That's why Thomas Bros. invented the method of putting purposeful mistakes in the data (so, this street really DOESN'T go through after all?!?) so that anyone copying it could be shown to be violating creative copyright. Stick with OpenStreetMap tiles and you should be fine.
  • by pruss ( 246395 ) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @12:38PM (#46335217) Homepage

    I'm a bit concerned by the implicit suggestion that if a lot of individual judgment went into producing the averages, then perhaps they might be copyrightable. IANAL, but it's my understanding that ideas, facts, opinions and judgments are not copyrightable. Only their expressions are, and only when there is creativity in the expression of the idea, fact, opinion or judgment. Whether there was creativity in coming up with the idea, fact, opinion or judgment should be completely irrelevant. Thus, when the judgment is that some number is 3.95%, then an expression of that judgment as "3.95%" is not copyrightable, being quite uncreative, but expressing it as "just a shade under four tenths of a tenth, where a shade is a twentieth of a tenth of a tenth" might be creative enough to be copyrightable.

    It may, though, be that the judge is just doing a two-prong attack here: neither is the expression creative nor are the ideas creative either.

    • by NoOneInParticular ( 221808 ) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @02:34PM (#46336929)
      I think you've got a fair point. In this view, I would say that many accounting reports of the last few decades should be considered creative in nature and therefore copyrightable. It seems the banks agree.
    • by PRMan ( 959735 )
      Consider a FICO credit score. The algorithm to get this value is not at all obvious from the data sets used to generate it. And it has tremendous value in commerce. So a FICO score is copyrightable and if you want to show one to consumers, you have to make up your own algorithm.
  • by mpoulton ( 689851 ) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @01:31PM (#46335965)
    From Judge Karas' opinion: "Thus, the output data generated by using Newton’s Second Law of Motion — force equals mass times acceleration, or “F=ma” — would be a series of uncopyrightable facts, even though the output is in some sense an estimation because Newton’s formula fails does not consider relativistic effects."

    No wonder he made the right decision on this case.
  • I don't know who they are but I would think BanxCorp would be happy to be mentioned favorably by Costco and Capital One.

"I have not the slightest confidence in 'spiritual manifestations.'" -- Robert G. Ingersoll