FALL 2009

Copyright Law

Course No. 9200 703 (and 803) 001 , Course IDs 79436, 79944
MW 4:45-6:15 p.m.
Room W-215
Professor Jay Dratler, Jr.
Room 231D (IP Alcove)
(330) 972-7972
Copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009   Jay Dratler, Jr.   For permission, see CMI.

Problem: Shyster on Dog Bites

Able Shyster, a lawyer, wants to write the definitive book on dog bite torts in Ohio.  He has a low-cost subscription to the LEXIS® database for decisions in the state courts of the State of Ohio.  While connected to this database, he types in the search request "dog w/10 bit! and tort."  This request is supposed to retrieve every opinion containing the word "tort" and also containing the word "dog" or "dogs" within ten words of any variation of the word "bit" ("bit," "bite," "bitten," "bites," etc.).

This search returns 917 judicial opinions, and Shyster downloads (records on the hard disk on his home computer) and reads every one.  After eliminating cases in which dog bites are mentioned only in passing or in irrelevant ways, Shyster is left with 793 cases involving substantive discussion of tort liability involving dog bites.  He writes a book describing the cases and analyzing the law in his own words.

In a companion volume, Shyster includes the complete text of each judicial opinion for each of the 793 cases he has selected.  He includes only the judge's own words, not the headnotes, core terms, or syllabus.  He organizes the cases by court (supreme, intermediate appellate, and trial court).  Within each court he organizes the cases by judicial district (if any), in numerical order.  Within each numerical district he organizes them in alphabetical order by the name of the plaintiff.  Bold headings on new pages divide the cases for each court and district from the others.  Shyster publishes 3,000 copies of his book and the companion volume containing these cases in print form.

1. Has Shyster infringed Lexis' copyright on its Ohio state-court decision database?  (Do not consider whether he might have violated his subscription agreement.)

2. Does Shyster has a valid and enforceable copyright in his companion volume?  If so, exactly what does it protect?  Would it make any difference if Shyster had organized the cases in his companion volume in alphabetical order of the type of dog involved?