South-Western Legal Studies in Business

No Copyright for Website Lacking Any Original Elements
Description Appeals court upheld rejection of a copyright for a website design that merely used existing works and put labels and colors on them. While the standard of originality is low, this fell below that.
Topic Cyberlaw
Key Words Copyright; Registration; Review; Website
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Darden created a website,, an online referral service for consumers to locate real estate appraisers around the country. It features maps that allow a user to find an appraiser by pointing to and clicking on the appropriate map. It starts at the national level, then state level, then local level. The maps were taken from a digital Census map, then colored and labeled. Darden filed an application with the Copyright Office to register his website and related materials. After review, the Copyright Office rejected his applications, noting that the maps lacked authorship. Coloring and labeling existing maps does not qualify. Registration of his web page was also rejected as a compilation of graphics. His appeal to the Copyright Office Board of Appeals affirmed denial of his registration. He sued for court review of that decision.

Affirmed. Even though the website, featuring a series of maps, possibly contained copyrightable elements, it was not a copyrightable compilation. Compilation authorship is limited to the original selection, coordination, and arrangement of the elements or data contained in a work. The threshold level of creativity required for copyrightability is low. But when any creative spark is lacking or is so trivial as to be nearly nonexistent, the standard has not been met. An author must have independently created some work, as opposed to copying work form others. Coloring and labeling common maps does not qualify.

Citation Darden v. Peters, 488 F.3d 277 (4th Cir., 2007)

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