Telstra loses copyright claim over White Pages and Yellow Pages

In Telstra Corporation Limited v Phone Directories Company Pty Ltd [2010] FCA 44 Justice Gordon of the Federal Court decided that, applying the principles of the High Court decision in IceTV Pty Limited v Nine Network Australia Pty Limited [2009] HCA 14, Telstra does not have copyright in the White Pages and Yellow Pages directories as they are not original literary works.

Justice Gordon decided that:

1. None of the directories is an original literary work: there were many contributors to each Work, but Telstra could not identify who provided the necessary authorial contribution to each Work.
2. Even if the human or humans who “contributed” to each Work were capable of being identified (and they are not), much of the contribution to each Work:
2.1 was not “independent intellectual effort” and further or alternatively, “sufficient effort of a literary nature” for those who made a contribution to be considered an author of the Work within the meaning of the Copyright Act;
2.2 occurred before the Work first taking its “material form” ;
2.3 was not the result of human authorship but was computer generated.

Whilst copyright can be held in compilations they must satisfy the originality test. In this case, Telstra could not prove the identity of the authors. The judge found that the directories were primarily created by a computer software program with little human discretion or invention.

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