The Supreme Court is being asked to decide whether copyright law bars independent companies from using telephone book listings as a source of information for competing directories.
The nation's publishing, marketing and electronic information industries say the outcome could significantly affect them and have joined in the court fight between two Kansas companies.In oral arguments before the high court, Kyler Knobbe, a lawyer for Feist Publications Inc., said Wednesday that "white page" listings of telephone subscribers do not come under copyright protections.
The listings, he said, are facts in the "public domain" and should be available as a source for competing directories.
"You can't protect the names, addresses and telephone numbers in a simple alphabetical list," said Knobbe.
He urged the high court to overturn a decision by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that said Feist violated copyright laws by using listings from a directory of the Rural Telephone Service Co., which serves several northwestern Kansas counties.
Feist publishes independent telephone directories for parts of Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. The case before the court involves a directory covering 15 Kansas counties.
Rural Telephone filed the suit after it planted fake names in its listings and found some of them in Feist's directory.