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
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
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.