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Copyright Ruling On Publishing Calculated Results: Common Sense Breaks Out

timothy posted about 2 months ago | from the but-then-I'd-have-to-kill-you dept.

The Courts 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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54 comments

Average (5, Funny)

James McGuigan (852772) | about 2 months ago | (#46333669)

Its a rather average ruling

Re:Average (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46333751)

Don't be mean.

Re:Average (5, Funny)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 2 months ago | (#46335567)

It's pretty normal for slashdot.

Being a pedant. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46336287)

In response to the phrase "common sense breaks out," I want to point out that "common sense" is often quite wrong.

The reason the scientific method is so rigorous is because we cannot rely on common sense to answer important questions. Often, a correct answer is very unintuitive and requires understanding of many non-obvious-but-relevant facts as well as a lot of deep thinking.

Common sense is fine when dealing with very simple problems in a very familiar environment, with relatively low impact. It is completely inappropriate to rely on it when dealing with hugely-impactful and multi-faceted issues like law (or science, or the proper application of moral values to complicated situations, etc.).

Re:Being a pedant. (1)

gIobaljustin (3526197) | about 2 months ago | (#46338107)

Common sense is fine when dealing with very simple problems in a very familiar environment, with relatively low impact.

I'd say you should just use your brain, rather than relying on "common sense." "Common sense" is not often common, and rarely does it make sense if you think about it.

Re:Average (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46339235)

I'm going to Poisson this story, there's nothing interesting here.

'banks' running out of ways to steal from citizens (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46333773)

the coin of the realm is kaput. now they must force each other to capitulate? what a spiritless scam. motive always equals results guaranteed

Re: 'banks' running out of ways to steal from citi (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46333873)

Don't worry, bankers will just rewrite the laws to make an illegal method legal.

ask louis farrakhan (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46333893)

why would he lie? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JOw1Spswb58

Bad news for Wolfram alpha (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#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.

Re:Bad news for Wolfram alpha (5, Informative)

Opportunist (166417) | about 2 months ago | (#46333991)

They can claim all they want. Law trumps contract.

Re:Bad news for Wolfram alpha (4, Insightful)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 2 months ago | (#46334101)

Money trumps law

Re:Bad news for Wolfram alpha (1)

rayzat (733303) | about 2 months ago | (#46334377)

Scissors cut money.

Re:Bad news for Wolfram alpha (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 2 months ago | (#46334601)

Ah, but rock crushes scissors, and paper (money) covers rock. The house always wins.

Re:Bad news for Wolfram alpha (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46335005)

fire burns paper, smothered by rock and melts scissors.

Re:Bad news for Wolfram alpha (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46335601)

Yeah, but Spock beats all of them.

Re:Bad news for Wolfram alpha (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46335175)

Paper money is still a thing?

Re:Bad news for Wolfram alpha (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about 2 months ago | (#46334827)

There is a reason why the status of Justice is blindfolded. So she does not have to see the piles of money being used to bribe the system.

Re:Bad news for Wolfram alpha (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46337533)

Money trumps law

Only to the degree the other party has more/less than you do.

I had a manager once that wanted to claim "intellectual property" rights over the network protocol to try to keep a customer that implemented our network protocol from selling their system to another customer. I told him that there was nothing we could do to prevent them from doing it as its not covered by copyright law - network protocols (since they fall under interfaces) are free to be reverse engineered and used. He didn't like it too much and was like "we'll write them a letter telling them not to." Don't know how that worked out; especially since the customer was a lot larger than we were.

Re:Bad news for Wolfram alpha (4, Informative)

pavon (30274) | about 2 months ago | (#46334005)

I just did some queries and the only copyright statement I see is the standard one at the bottom of their page. They do have a legitimate copyright on their pages, including the layout, design and the content which they created. That notice doesn't necissarily imply that they claim to own the facts that are being displayed. In fact, they frequently provide citations for those facts, which implies that they don't claim to own them.

Re:Bad news for Wolfram alpha (1)

zoffdino (848658) | about 2 months ago | (#46334321)

The difference is Wolfram hasn't sued anybody about that (yet). You can't copyright simple fact like "what's the 2nd derivative of sin(x)". I think they include that claim more to cover their asses than to assert it in the court of law.

Re:Bad news for Wolfram alpha (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46334815)

This is why Wolfram Alpha sucks and I recommend people away from them. I get better results out of google anyways.

Re:Bad news for Wolfram alpha (1)

Baloroth (2370816) | about 2 months ago | (#46335527)

Where do they claim that, exactly? As far as I can tell reading Wolfram's licensing page [wolframalpha.com], your claim is 100% completely and utterly false. What they do claim is copyright on their presentation and assemblage of the facts (such as plots, graphs, tables, et alia), but not at all on the facts themselves.

Gravity (0)

TempleOS (3394245) | about 2 months ago | (#46333901)

You haven't realized the gravity of God ruling the world. You are being very petty. I laugh at your stupidity. You will not know what hit's you when God rules the world. God says...eminently leadeth reserved syllables tasteth sanctity change judgments pared seizes appointed touch boils tumults justify accompany Essence forenamed calmly Volunteers sweeten guess fearfully sharpness criticised breathed sacrifice changeableness Schools Trillion things effaces troubled translated Lovely trembled penalty alternates cherished repentest relaxation intelligence enlisted No displeasing imaginations texts mark-up whisperings gratification shrunk captivity plenteous art deliverest Do beguiling daemons all-renewing enlargedst intercepting Professor Presence fruit-trees inspiring file Terence -who glide desperate lodging missed agreed sparrow regardless wasting venerable sittest apprehended rejects Life shady

Is it me or does this stink a bit? (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 2 months ago | (#46334025)

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.

Between companies, there is a differnt law. (4, Interesting)

houghi (78078) | about 2 months ago | (#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.

Re:Between companies, there is a differnt law. (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 2 months ago | (#46334391)

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.

Re:Between companies, there is a differnt law. (1)

u38cg (607297) | about 2 months ago | (#46334859)

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.

Re:Between companies, there is a differnt law. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46337299)

Hello shareholder, it's time to cast your vote:

Re-elect [responsible party]?

[]: Agree
[]: Abstain

How cute, you thought you had an option to hold them accountable?

In light of this ruling (3, Funny)

kjshark (312401) | about 2 months ago | (#46334103)

I withdraw my application to copyright arithmetic.

Re:In light of this ruling (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46334917)

not quite the same, but funny never-the-less....
http://www.theonion.com/articles/microsoft-patents-ones-zeroes,599/

They made two mistakes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46334387)

They should have patented "A method for determining bank rates over a diverse set of banks" and sued in Texas.

Map Data is open, the tiles are just math. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46334427)

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

Re:Map Data is open, the tiles are just math. (1)

PRMan (959735) | about 2 months ago | (#46338297)

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.

Human Judgement? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46334677)

If "human judgement" needs to be involved in creating copyrightable info, then anything created at a bank is disqualified.

Judgment shouldn't matter (2)

pruss (246395) | about 2 months ago | (#46335217)

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.

Re:Judgment shouldn't matter (3, Funny)

NoOneInParticular (221808) | about 2 months ago | (#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.

Re:Judgment shouldn't matter (1)

PRMan (959735) | about 2 months ago | (#46338335)

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.

Judge Karas uses modern physics as an analogy (3, Insightful)

mpoulton (689851) | about 2 months ago | (#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.

Re:Judge Karas uses modern physics as an analogy (0)

PRMan (959735) | about 2 months ago | (#46338351)

No wonder he made the right decision on this case.

Because he followed the science of a young-earth creationist?

Never heard of BanxCorp (1)

Control-Z (321144) | about 2 months ago | (#46336011)

I don't know who they are but I would think BanxCorp would be happy to be mentioned favorably by Costco and Capital One.

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