A modicum of creativity after Feist

August 27, 2010 12:00 pm
Manning Hall, Room 208


Julian Warner, Queen’s School of Management, Queen’s University of Belfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom


The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Feist v. Rural (1991) has been regarded as the most significant copyright decision of the modern era. It affirmed originality, which includes a modicum of creativity as an essential component, as a constitutional requirement for copyrightability, in connection with compilations (understood as databases, including bibliographic databases).  Criteria for a modicum of creativity and for creativity itself are extracted from the opinion.  The categories distinguished by the opinion—no creativity whatsoever, insufficient creativity, and a quantum of creativity—are then progressively elucidated on a consistent principle derived from the delineation of the antithesis to creativity—nothing remotely creative—in the opinion.  An understanding of a modicum of creativity is obtained.  Bibliographic and database products which correspond to the different levels of creativity distinguished by the opinion are then exemplified.

Speaker Bio

Julian Warner is a faculty member at the Queen’s School of Management, Queen’s University of Belfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom, where he teaches courses in the human aspects of modern information and communication technologies and in information policy.  He has been a visiting scholar at the Universities of California at Berkeley, Illinois, and Edinburgh.  He has research interests in information retrieval, the history of copyright, in the connections between writing and computing, and in understandings of information technology.  He has published a number of journal articles in information science and four books, the first of which was translated into Japanese and selected as a recommended reading by Microsoft Japan.   His most recent publications are Human Information Retrieval (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2010), and, So mechanical or routine: the not original in Feist. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology. 61, 4, 2010, pp.820-834.