Mason v. Montgomery Data, Inc.
967 F.2d 135 (5th Cir. 1992)

  • Mason did a lot of research on real estate data, and compiled all of the research into a map, which he sold. Montgomery Data took Mason's map, traced Mason's map and turned it into their own map, which they sold.
  • Mason sued Montgomery Data for copyright infringement.
    • Montgomery Data argued that all of the information contained on the map was publicly available. There was nothing in the map that was created by Mason, or represented any originality on his part. Therefore the map was not copyrightable.
  • The Trial Court found for Montgomery Data. Mason appealed.
    • The Trial Court found that since a map was based on factual data, there was only one possible way to draw it, so it did not embody the creativity required for a copyright.
  • The Appellate Court reversed.
    • The Appellate Court found that maps can be drawn in a variety of ways, and can contain various levels of data. Therefore they are a creative expression worthy of copyright.
    • The Court looked to Feist Publications, Inc. v. Rural Telephone Service Co., Inc. (499 U.S. 340 (1991)), and found that compilations of factual data are copyrightable if the author's selection, coordination, and arrangement of the information depicted are sufficiently creative to qualify as a creative expression.