FEIST PUBLICATIONS, INC. v. RURAL TELEPHONE SERVICE
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
499 U.S. 340; 111 S. Ct. 1282; 113 L. Ed. 2d 358; 1991 U.S. LEXIS
1856; 59 U.S.L.W. 4251; 18 U.S.P.Q.2D (BNA) 1275; Copy. L. Rep.
(CCH) P26,702; 68 Rad. Reg. 2d (P & F) 1513; 18 Media L. Rep. 1889;
121 P.U.R.4th 1; 91 Cal. Daily Op. Service 2217; 91 Daily Journal
January 9, 1991, Argued
March 27, 1991, Decided
O'Connor, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Rehnquist, C. J., and White, Marshall,
Stevens, Scalia, Kennedy, and Souter, JJ., joined.
Blackmun, J., concurred in the judgment.
This case requires us to clarify the extent of copyright protection available to telephone direc-
tory white pages.
Rural Telephone Service Company, Inc., is a certified public utility that provides telephone
service to several communities in northwest Kansas.
It is subject to a state regulation that requires
all telephone companies operating in Kansas to issue annually an updated telephone directory. Ac-
cordingly, as a condition of its monopoly franchise, Rural publishes a typical telephone directory,
consisting of white pages and yellow pages.
The white pages list in alphabetical order the names of
Rural's subscribers, together with their towns and telephone numbers.
The yellow pages list Rural's
business subscribers alphabetically by category and feature classified advertisements of various
Rural distributes its directory free of charge to its subscribers, but earns revenue by selling
yellow pages advertisements.
Feist Publications, Inc., is a publishing company that specializes in area-wide telephone directo-
ries. Unlike a typical directory, which covers only a particular calling area, Feist's area-wide direc-
tories cover a much larger geographical range, reducing the need to call directory assistance or con-
sult multiple directories. The Feist directory that is the subject of this litigation covers 11 different
telephone service areas in 15 counties and contains 46,878 white pages listings -- compared to Ru-
ral's approximately 7,700 listings. Like Rural's directory, Feist's is distributed free of charge and
includes both white pages and yellow pages.
Feist and Rural compete vigorously for yellow pages
As the sole provider of telephone service in its service area, Rural obtains subscriber informa-
tion quite easily.
Persons desiring telephone service must apply to Rural and provide their names
and addresses; Rural then assigns them a telephone number.
Feist is not a telephone company, let