Once again Beckett is doing what they can to damage the hobby for collectors with a recent lawsuit filed against the card organization web site Zistle claiming copyright infringement under the 1976 Copyright Act. Beckett is seeking actual damages, which they claim to be $5,000 plus attorney fees. Additionally they seek a temporary and permanent restraint from further infringement on their copyrighted works. I have included a <LINK> for the actual case documents that Beckett filed.
The heart of the issue is that Beckett claims that Zistle is copying their checklists to update the Zistle database. At this point Josh and Ashley, the founders of Zistle, have not responded because the case is still pending. While Beckett filed the case and included certificates showing their copyright registration certificates they have not provided any proof of the copyright infringement covered under the certificates.
I am not a lawyer and I am a member of both Beckett and Zistle’s communities, but I think this is just the big dog trying to keep control of the backyard. Zistle’s database is updated by the site’s members and I am sure that some people have done a straight copy and paste from Beckett’s checklists but the question remains is how is a simple written list copyrighted?
I was reading up on the story on Cardboard Connection and Paul Lesko supplied a similar case from 1991, Feist Publications, Inc. v. Rural Telephone Service Co., which dealt with phone books and the U.S. Supreme Court established that information without a minimum of creativity cannot be copyrighted.
When you consider that Beckett lists the cards in the set, and yes they do add codes like “RC” and “ERR.”, it is still information without creativity. The nitty gritty of it is that Beckett’s checklist is no different than a phone book listing, a song list, a batter’s lineup or a list of courses available at a local university. Sure the design of the booklet that the information is listed in may be copyrighted but the list itself is just information.
I hope this case goes away, I use Zistle almost daily to keep my card collection organized and track my wants/needs and trades. I would be extremely disappointed to see Zistle shut down over checklists.