Judge rules non-creative email not copyrightable #freeculture

OUTLAW.COM reports a recent court decision in Los Angeles where one Kenneth Stern had sued for copyright infringement after an allegedly libelous email to a listserv was leaked to its subject.

Judge Dolly Gee said Stern’s email lacked originality and a copyright certificate he had obtained from the US Copyright Office was invalid as a consequence. The reproduction of Stern’s email was legitimate as it was in order to represent what Stern had written and not because it was a creative expression.

” [Stern’s] listserv post … displays no creativity whatsoever – its content is dictated solely by functional considerations. As [Stern] expression of his idea is indistinguishable from the idea itself, it is not entitled to copyright protection.” judge Dolly Gee said.

Stern argued that he had considered alternatives to the email’s wording, but the judge said that “trivial” alternatives did not show that the finished email merited copyright protection.

Judge Dee, stating that Stern had sought litigation in bad faith, awarded summary judgement for the defendants, and costs to be assessed.