Copyright a Language Dictionary
In asking this question before and receiving a response it appears my question wasn’t clear, so here’s a revised version.
My understanding is that there are approximately 1,000 common use words in English. If someone were to compile a list of the exact word from various foreign languages, put it in dictionary form and create a name for the word list, could such a dictionary be copyrighted? Using French, German and Swedish foreign languages for example:
German – rechner* word for computer
French – fenētre* word for windows
Swedish – älska* word for love
Could compiling a dictionary of over 1,000 words using the asterisk word examples shown above, creating a totally different form of communication or language if you will be copyrighted as an original work? Thank you.
1 Answer from Attorneys
Re: Copyright a Language Dictionary
This question comes up often in copyright law.
What you have is a compilation of material that is not itself copyrightable, and the issue is whether compiling otherwise public domain information creates an original work for which copyright protection can be claimed. A white pages phone book is a good example of such a compilation. Please look up Feist Publications, Inc. v. Rural Telephone Service Co., 499 U.S. 340:
Publishers of directories, and maybe even dictionaries, sometimes include bogus entries to nab those who would copy the entire compilation.