Sampling of Emails I have received from the Public with advice on Copyright of Routing Numbers
Many people have sent me emails giving their support and advice on the Legal actions against me for displaying Routing Numbers on my website.
Below is a sampling of these email containing legal advice (I will create a separate page for the emails describing the usefulness of the site as a public service). I have omitted the names and contact info for these people (to protect their privacy), but I would
be happy to display their contact info if they request it (I don't want to get into any more copyright trouble).
What you are posting is NOT the ABA number (a 4 digit # that is assigned to banks by the ABA), but the ROUTING TRANSIT NUMBER (a 9 digit # that the Federal Reserve derives from the ABA number). The 4 digits of the Routing Transit Number is the Federal Reserve Routing Symbol, the next 4 are the ABA #, the last is the check digit.
Here's more info regarding the first paragraph of my email. The basic thought being that you can say you are not posting the copywrited ABA number but instead you are posting the Fed routing number. (you cannot help if the Fed imbeded the ABA inside the routing number).
Routing transit number
9 digit Routing #
XXXX is Federal Reserve Routing Symbol, YYYY is ABA Institution Identifier, and C is the Check Digit.
Data isn't copyrightable. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feist_v._Rural.
5.1.3 Does copyrighted material lose its copyright status and protection if it becomes part of a U.S. Government work or is included in a compilation published by the Government?
No, copyrighted material contained in a U.S. Government work does not lose its copyright status and protection. The copyright status of non-government works in a compilation is not affected by the lack of copyright protection of other works in the compilation or by the fact that the U.S. Government publishes the compilation. When copyrighted materials are included in a Government work or a compilation published by the Government, a copyright notice indicating what portions of the work are protected by copyright, and identifying the copyright owner, should be included. (See Copyright Office Circular 1113. You may consult a lawyer as the downloads provide no copyright notice and are available to anyone in the general public
Also, I just looked at the LEGAL NOTICES on the FRB website and it looks like the lawyer Nigel Howard selectively quoted it and flat out lied. The FAQ doesn't say what he claims. Under the 'Legal Notices' it says this "The Federal Reserve Banks provide this Federal Reserve Financial Services Web Site as a convenience to our customers, depository institutions and the public."
Notice it says it makes this information available to the PUBLIC (which Nigel Howard selectively left out). It also does not say ANYTHING about anywhere on the Legal Disclosures about commercial gain.
The fact that you have compiled a list of bank routing numbers is not a violation of federal copyright laws. Here is a U.S. Supreme Court decision that may be of assistance to you:
Feist Publications, Inc., v. Rural Telephone Service Co., 499 U.S. 340 (1991), commonly called Feist v. Rural, is an important United States Supreme Court case establishing that information alone without a minimum of original creativity cannot be protected by copyright. In the case appealed, Feist had copied information from Rural's telephone listings to include in its own, after Rural had refused to license the information. Rural sued for copyright infringement. The Court ruled that information contained in Rural's phone directory was not copyrightable and that therefore no infringement existed.
I'm an attorney, but certainly not an expert in copyright law. However, these routing numbers are not just published in other websites; its there at the bottom on the face of every check. If the check has been negotiated, there will more bank r. number(s)on the back of every check, often including those of Federal Reserve Banks. My point is that these numbers are already in the public domain, & our gov't provides access them. I can't thank of any value these numbers have to the ABA, when there so readily available. Over my 45 years as a lawyer, I've called dozens of banks all over the country & none of them have ever hesitated to give me their r. number. Have you checked to see if the ABA actually has a copyright? Have you contacted the Fed Reserve about the ABA threats? You might search the net to see if you can find a public interest law firm who might represent you pro bono? There are many of these firms that love to take on big institutions! Good luck!
I don't know about the ABA's claim. However, I can provide some insight as to why they're making it if you haven't figured it out already. I've worked for a check printing company for many years. Those numbers are integral to the check printing process. My company along with many other companies have to pay for the updates to those numbers. So, they're concerned you're going to cost them money. No more, no less.
After reading the TechDirt article about your struggle with the ABA I started a change.org petition supporting you at
I believe you can claim exception to any copyright claim they may have as you are "teaching" individuals what these numbers are. This is covered under the fair use law.
"Fair use is a limitation and exception to the exclusive right granted by copyright law to the author of a creative work. In United States copyright law, fair use is a doctrine that permits limited use of copyrighted material without acquiring permission from the rights holders. Examples of fair use include commentary, search engines, criticism, news reporting, research, teaching, library archiving and scholarship. It provides for the legal, unlicensed citation or incorporation of copyrighted material in another author's work under a four-factor balancing test."
From copyright.gov http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl102.html and more here. http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap1.html#107
It is possible that simply citing the source could resolve any issues as well or making it searchable.
Here is another site you could use to rebut their claim as well. http://www.laneguide.com/FindRoutingNumbers/645778~CompanyDetails?AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1
Saw this referenced in some comments on this subject. Thought I'd send it to you in case you didn't catch it.
17 U.S.C. §102 - Subject matter of copyright: In general
(b) In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, SYSTEM, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work.
According to Feist v. Rural, a US Supreme Court case, an alphabetical directory information cannot be copyrightable nor can the fact based information contained within: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feist_v._Rural
They teach this case to every 1st year law student. I don't know what state you are located, but I am licensed to practice law in CT. Let me know, and I may be able to help you prepare a response letter.
Tell them to read Matthew Bender & Co. v. West Publ. Co., 158 F.3d 693, 707 (CA2 1998)
Hey Greg, I just wanted to throw in a comment that based on the information you've provided in your take down notices... where was copyright proven? There's
no reference to the copyright here:.
Additionally, the copyright there specifically states "showing routing numbers and special A B A item identification numbers". Your list does not cover the 'special A B A item identification numbers', merely the routing numbers. They copyrighted the two of them together, not separately. The copyright states that it is for the 'Key', which is most likely their method for assigning routing numbers, or for a list which contains all routing numbers and an additional hidden ID. Obviously not what is exactly on your site. Also, simple solution would be to not have ads/make money from the pages that have the routing numbers. No commercial gain in that path. At least until you can resolve this issue. Best regards, and good luck!