Sunday, October 07, 2012

University of Minnesota claims its personality test questions are copyrighted; what happens with chess games, recipes, mathematical proofs?

There’s a recent controversy where the University of Minnesota sent a “cease and desist” to the operator (in New Zealand) of a website publishing the questions on its MMPI personality test. The server (Kazserv) hosting the site was also notified, under the DMCA.

The idea that a psychological test (or any exam, such as the SAT) is protected by copyright makes sense. A story in the Minnesota Daily  (Jan. 2012) is here.

The idea seems less clear with, for example, chess games, which are “facts” and perhaps not copyrightable.  Nevertheless, FIDE has wanted them to be treated as copyrightable, as in this story.  

Here’s another column, can a chess move or a chess position be copyrighted?  “Tech Dirt” says no, as in this article here

One problem is that even amateurs sometimes discover “new moves” in controversial chess positions.

 The US Copyright Office says that copyright law does not protect recipes “that are mere listings or ingredients”, link here.

It’s not so clear what happens when cooking directions are included, as these, as in a clever blog post, approach being literary expression, and photos of the food might be copyrightable.

One can pose other questions, such as directions for laboratory experiments in a chemistry textbook.    
Or how about a mathematical theorem proof, as of the “Four Color Problem”?

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