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> From: Tony Harris <[log in to unmask]>

> A mere arrangement of things, no.  But a conlang and its dictionary is 
> an artistic work and is protected.  (Yeah, I asked a lawyer some time 
> ago, actually).
> 
> I imagine the difference is that you're arranging things you have 
> produced, not simply arranging common things.  Although I question even 
> that, since if I make an artistic work out of toothpicks and glue, it's 
> still my artistic work, even though I'm "just aranging common things".

The issue is related to how much you're adding your own art to the information.

Take the example of a phone book. All the information in the residential listings of a phone book is "public domain" (names, addresses, phone numbers). Since phone books are usually listed alphabetically by last name, what the phone book editor adds is minimal: They do the footwork of getting the information together (as Sai describes, "sweat of the brow"), but they don't do anything clever with it.

A natlang dictionary is slightly more complex. There's artistry in deciding how to define words, but there's also a degree to which it's common knowledge that's merely being compiled. Certainly there's nothing creative in noting that "dog" means a domestic canine, or a rogue, or a foot, but the specific words chosen to explain those concepts can vary and therefore have an element of creativity.

A conlang dictionary is yet even more complex. It's not taking commonly held information, it creating new information. Ergo, it's more protected as intellectual property. However, it's still generally made of toothpicks and glue at some analogous level, be it IPA units or (with digitally published exolangs) at least pixels on a screen.

In other words, what is protected by IP law is what you add to the common things you arrange, be they name-address relationships, toothpicks, phonemes, or paint on canvas. If you arranged your phone book so that, for instance, the initial letters of the last names reading down the first column was based on some sort of artistic statement, that arrangement would have some level of IP protection (although I'm not sure how much):

Thompson, John 555-5555
Olivet, Mary 555-5555
Becker, Harriet 555-5555
Evans, Michelle 555-5555
Owens, Harold 555-5555
Randolph, William 555-5555
Nickels, Susan 555-5555
Olivet, Frank 555-5555
Turner, Jessica 555-5555
etc.

-- Paul