1991 Feist


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FEIST PUBLICATIONS, INC. v. RURAL TELEPHONE SERVICE CO., INC. No. 89-1909 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 DAR 3580 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. I 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 sizes. 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 advertising. 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
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alone one with monopoly status, and therefore lacks independent access to any subscriber informa- tion. To obtain white pages listings for its area-wide directory, Feist approached each of the 11 telephone companies operating in northwest Kansas and offered to pay for the right to use its white pages listings. Of the 11 telephone companies, only Rural refused to license its listings to Feist.
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