Utilitarian Information Works – Is Originality the Proper Lens?

Posted: 30 Apr 2012

See all articles by Dana Beldiman

Dana Beldiman

UC Law, San Francisco; Bucerius Law School

Date Written: April 29, 2012


As the information society advances, vastly increased numbers of utilitarian information works (UIW) are being produced. In general, these works are deemed protected by copyright law, even though the philosophical underpinnings of copyright law clash with the attributes of utilitarian information works. This article examines the cause for the uneasy relationship between utilitarian information works and the concept of 'originality.' Part I discusses the role of information and utilitarian information works as one of the core wealth-producing assets of the knowledge-based economy. This economy is characterized by a rapid pace of innovation, which in turn, requires unrestricted access to information. Part II examines copyright law as it relates to protectability of fact-intensive works. In recognition of the global nature of the issue, the law of the U.S., as a representative common law jurisdiction, and the law of Germany, as a representative civil law jurisdiction, are discussed. Relevant authorities from other jurisdictions are mentioned as well. Part III points to the tension between utilitarian information works and the concept of “originality” as the sole standard for evaluating copyright protectability. While originality encourages subjective diversification of creation, the functional nature of utilitarian information works constrains expression by requiring uniformity and conformity. Evaluating copyright ability of utilitarian information works through the lens of originality alone, may lead to results that adversely impact the flow of information required for innovation. The article concludes with possible alternative approaches that would avoid jeopardizing the free flow of information.

Keywords: copyright, functionality, originality, utilitarian works, factual works

JEL Classification: O34

Suggested Citation

Beldiman, Dana and Beldiman, Dana, Utilitarian Information Works – Is Originality the Proper Lens? (April 29, 2012). Marquette Intellectual Property Law Review, Vol. 14, No. 1, 2010, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2047625

Dana Beldiman (Contact Author)

UC Law, San Francisco ( email )

200 McAllister Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
United States

Bucerius Law School ( email )

Jungiusstr. 6
Hamburg, 20355

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