New Federal Court ruling on copyright in compilations

In a case bearing similarities to the 2002 Full Federal Court decision of Desktop Marketing Systems v Telstra, which upheld Telstra’s copyright in White Pages® and Yellow Pages® directories, a single judge of the Federal Court has now found against Telstra and Sensis in proceedings brought against a company called Phone Directories Company Pty Ltd (PDC).  Mallesons is acting for Telstra and Sensis.
PDC distributes a competitor directories’ product – called “Local Directories” – in the Northern Territory, regional Queensland and regional parts of Northern New South Wales.

Telstra and Sensis claim, among other things, that PDC has infringed Telstra’s copyright in the White Pages® and Yellow Pages® directories by deriving content for its competitor directories from the White Pages® and Yellow Pages® directories, without permission.  This is alleged to have occurred in a number of ways, including sending Telstra’s directories offshore for wholesale copying.  The conduct is alleged to date back over a decade.

Following the 2009 High Court decision of Ice TV Pty Ltd v Nine Network Australia Pty Ltd (a copyright case about Nine’s TV guides), Justice Gordon ordered that she would consider whether copyright subsists in the White Pages® and Yellow Pages® as a preliminary question.  In a judgment delivered on 8 February 2010, Justice Gordon has found against Telstra and Sensis.

This decision raises fundamental issues about the scope of copyright law in relation to complex compilations, with far reaching impact beyond the facts of this particular case. 

As Mallesons is acting in this matter, we’ll limit our commentary on the case, other than to say that leave to appeal has been granted by consent of the parties.  You will find Justice Gordon’s decision here.


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