license question

Rob Myers robmyers at
Wed Dec 1 11:44:28 EST 2004

On Tuesday, November 30, 2004, at 09:54PM, Bryan L. Fordham <bfordham at> wrote:

>I'm getting ready to put the first stage of a project of mine online.
>Basically it's an American version of
>So far I have senate voting records, with more to come online shortly.
>I want to make the source code and database available. I considered CC for
>the database, but do I even need to bother with that? The information is
>public domain, I assume, since it's just public record stuff.  Perhaps I
>should just put the database in the public domain as well?

In theory you can't copyright mere collections of facts in databases in the US :

This page gives examples of successfully coppyrighted databases (post 'Feist') :

but notes:

"Among works that are particularly vulnerable to a finding of uncopyrightability are comprehensive factual databases covering an entire universe of information, where the element of "selection" is lacking and the "arrangement" is obvious. The very comprehensiveness and ease of use of such a database may account both for its commercial value and its lack of protection under copyright."

So the copyrightability of your DB depends on whether and how you've selected the data, and how unusually you're structuring it. If you can copyright the DB you can license it, otherwise it's public domain anyway.

I am not a lawyer, this is certainly not legal advice. :-)

- Rob.

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