Australian market leader realestate.com.au is having a complicated few weeks. Just as Google Maps announced a major new marketing push and partnership with leading agency LJ Hooker, the Federal Court of Australia has handed down a ruling that could make it harder for the property portal to protect the information in its database.
The decision by Justice Michelle Gordon relates to the hard-copy versions of the Yellow and White Pages. Sensis, the directiories division of communications company Telstra, took action against Local Directories, which has distributed phone directories in three Australian states. Gordon ruled that Telstra did not have copyright over the data in the Yellow and White Pages, stating:
"None of the Works were original. None of the people said to be authors of the Works exercised 'independent intellectual effort' or 'sufficient effort of a literary nature' in creating the Works. Further, if necessary, the creation of the Works did not involve some 'creative spark' or the exercise of the requisite 'skill and judgment'.
I accept that production of the directories is a large enterprise populated by many contributors (ignoring for the moment the determinative difficulties with authorship outlined above). However, these facts are not relevant to the Applicants’ claim and [...] substantial labour and expense is not alone sufficient to establish originality."
According to computerworld.com, realestate.com.au is investigating the court's decision. Baker and McKenzie partner Ross McLean told the website that the positive side of the ruling is that other companies will be able to take information from databases and “think of better ways of presenting data”.