United States Court of Appeals,
Seventh Circuit.

ROCKFORD MAP PUBLISHERS, INC., Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
DIRECTORY SERVICE COMPANY OF COLORADO, INC. and Frances A. Anderson, Defendants-Appellants.

No. 84-2301.

Argued May 20, 1985.
Decided July 15, 1985.


Richard G. Lione, William Brinks Olds Hofer Gilson & Lione, Ltd., Chicago, Ill., for defendants-appellants.

Michael C. Payden, Leydig, Voit & Mayer, Ltd., Rockford, Ill., for plaintiff- appellee.


Before BAUER and EASTERBROOK, Circuit Judges, and CAMPBELL, Senior District Judge. [FN*]


FN* The Honorable William J. Campbell, Senior District Judge for the Northern District of Illinois, is sitting by designation.



EASTERBROOK, Circuit Judge.

A plat map shows the location, size, and ownership of parcels of land. Rockford Map 
Publishers makes plat maps of rural counties. They are useful to local residents and 
to sellers of farm equipment, who can learn the identities and needs of potential 
customers. Doubtless they have other uses as well.

Rockford Map starts with aerial photographs distributed by the Department of 
Agriculture. It traces the topographical features from the photographs and draws lines
showing townships and sections. Then an employee goes to places where land titles are 
recorded and reads the books. The employee uses the legal descriptions of the deeds to
draw boundary lines indicating the location and size of each parcel. He pencils in the
name of the owner. From time to time Rockford Map updates the maps as ownership of 
land changes. Figure 1 is the result for one township in Ford County, Illinois.

Rockford Map has repeated this process for more than 500 counties throughout the United
States. The first plat of Ford County was prepared in 1948, and a new one was prepared
from scratch in 1956. Rockford Map published updated versions of the Ford County plat 
maps in 1961, 1964, 1966, 1969, 1972, 1974, 1976, 1977, 1979, 1981, and 1983. The 
copyrights of several revisions, including the one in 1983, were registered. The most 
recent update took about 14 hours' work in the Ford County Courthouse. An employee of 
Rockford Map estimated that it would have taken him between 40 and 45 hours to do the 
research for Ford County from scratch.

Directory Service Co. also publishes plat maps. It starts with a square grid and 
draws in the information about ownership without regard to topographical features. 
When Directory Service decided to do a plat map of Ford County, it hired a local 
resident and gave her instructions about how to interpret information in the title 
records. In order to make her task easier, Directory Service enlarged Rockford Map's 
plat maps for Ford County. Directory Service told its agent to check the records using
Rockford Map's map as a worksheet. [FN1] If a search of the records revealed that 
Rockford Map's map was correct, the agent put a green check in the space depicting the 
parcel of land; if the map was incorrect, the agent overwrote the map in red. The 
agent also recorded information about parcels Rockford Map had deemed too small to put 
on its plat maps. The agent estimates that she spent 75 hours on these tasks for Ford 
County. When she was done she sent the corrected plat maps to Directory Service, whose
staff produced a new map. Figure 2 is Directory Service's map for the same township in
Ford County.


FN1. This is apparently a routine practice at Directory Service. An internal 
manual says that "[t]he first step in the plat process is to update all of the land 
ownership information in the county. The best way to accomplish this is to obtain 
a plat map from another source that we can use as a 'base' and then have someone in 
the county update that information using current public records. Plat books can 
usually be purchased from a variety of sources, including other private publishers 
or the county auditor's office. Once a plat book is obtained, D.S.C. will enlarge 
the township maps to our normal correction map size so that changes and information 
needed can be more easily written directly on the map."


Rockford Map could tell by looking at Directory Service's product that its plat maps 
had been used as templates. Some of the names in Rockford Map's maps have bogus middle
initials. These initials, if read from the top of the map to the bottom, spell out 
"Rockford Map Inc." (Read down the column at 2400 E in the map, starting with Glenn R. 
Polson.) Rockford Map put these trap initials in the maps of four townships in Ford 
County. Directory Service's maps contained 54 of the 56 trap initials.

Both Rockford Map and Directory Service sell advertising space in their books of plat 
maps. But Rockford Map also sells *148 the books, while Directory Service gives the 
maps away as part of a directory of residents. Understandably distressed by Directory 
Service's methods, if not by the fact of competition, Rockford Map filed this suit, 
contending that Directory Service violated the copyright laws. The district court held
a two-day trial and entered judgment for Rockford Map. It ordered Directory Service to
turn its working materials and maps over to the court, and it enjoined further 
publication of infringing maps. The court awarded statutory damages of $250 and 
attorneys' fees of about $22,000. Its decision also controls numerous other cases 
between these parties concerning publications in other counties, cases held in abeyance 
pending the result of this litigation.

[1] Directory Service's principal argument on appeal is that Rockford Map's plat maps 
are not copyrightable. But 17 U.S.C. <section> 103(a) provides that "compilations" are
copyrightable, subject to the limitation in <section> 103(b) that the copyright in a 
compilation "extends only to the material contributed by the author of such work, as 
distinguished from any preexisting material employed in such work." (This is the 1976 
Act; the 1909 version is not materially different.) In other words, when the 
contribution lies in the arrangement of facts, only the arrangement is protected by the 
copyright. Rockford Map could not copyright the information in the deeds on file in 
the county courthouse, but it could and did copyright the arrangement of that 
information on a plat map.

[2][3] The copyright laws are designed to give people incentives to produce new works. 
See Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc. v. Nation Enterprises, 471 U.S. 539, 105 S.Ct. 2218,
2223-24, 85 L.Ed.2d 588 (1985); Sony Corp. v. Universal City Studios, Inc., 464 U.S. 
417, 104 S.Ct. 774, 782, 807, 78 L.Ed.2d 574 (1984). They allow people to collect the 
reward for their contributions. If the incremental contribution is small, so too is 
the reward, but a subjective assessment of the importance of the contribution has 
nothing to do with the existence of copyright.

Directory Service maintains that Rockford Map produced its plat maps with so little 
effort that the result may not be copyrighted. The court remarked in Schroeder v. 
William Morrow & Co., 566 F.2d 3, 5 (7th Cir.1977), that "only 'industrious collection,'
not originality in the sense of novelty, is required." The expenditure of 14 hours to 
update the maps of Ford County, or even 45 to start from scratch, is not very 
"industrious," Directory Service tells us.

[4][5] The copyright laws protect the work, not the amount of effort expended. A 
person who produces a short new work or makes a small improvement in a few hours gets a 
copyright for that contribution fully as effective as that on a novel written as a 
life's work. Perhaps the smaller the effort the smaller the contribution; if so, the 
copyright simply bestows fewer rights. Others can expend the same effort to the same 
end. Copyright covers, after all, only the incremental contribution and not the 
underlying information. Mazer v. Stein, 347 U.S. 201, 74 S.Ct. 460, 98 L.Ed.2d 630 
(1954).

[6][7][8] The input of time is irrelevant. A photograph may be copyrighted, although 
it is the work of an instant and its significance may be accidental. Burrow-Giles 
Lithographic Co. v. Sarony, 111 U.S. 53, 4 S.Ct. 279, 28 L.Ed. 349 (1884); Bleistein v.
Donaldson Lithographing Co., 188 U.S. 239, 23 S.Ct. 298, 47 L.Ed. 460 (1903); Time, 
Inc. v. Bernard Geis Assoc., 293 F.Supp. 130 (S.D.N.Y.1968) (Zapruder film of Kennedy 
assassination). In 14 hours Mozart could write a piano concerto, J.S. Bach a cantata, 
or Dickens a week's installment of Bleak House. The Laffer Curve, an economic graph 
prominent in political debates, appeared on the back of a napkin after dinner, the work 
of a minute. All of these are copyrightable. [FN2] Dickens did not *149 need to 
complete Bleak House before receiving a copyright; every chapter--indeed every 
sentence--could be protected standing alone. Rockford Map updates and republishes maps
on more than 140 counties every year. If it put out one large book with every map, 
even Directory Service would concede that the book was based on a great deal of 
"industry." Rockford Map, like Dickens, loses none of its rights by publishing 
copyrightable matter in smaller units.


FN2. In principle. Mozart's work is in the public domain and anyway was work for 
hire. The Archbishop of Salzburg probably held the rights. There were no copyright
laws in seventeenth-century Germany, and Bach had no way to protect his rights. 
Dickens was at the mercy of his publishers. Only Laffer's napkin, and not the idea
represented by the graph, may be copyrighted. But the principle's the thing.


[9][10][11] The contribution of a collection of facts lies in their presentation, not 
in the facts themselves. The collector may change the form of information and so make 
it more accessible, or he may change the organization and so make the data more 
understandable. A catalog of names and addresses is copyrightable (Schroeder), as is a
directory of trade symbols (Jewelers' Circular Pub. Co. v. Keystone Pub. Co., 274 Fed. 
932 (S.D.N.Y.1921) (L. Hand, J.), aff'd, 281 Fed. 83 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 259 U.S. 
581, 42 S.Ct. 464, 66 L.Ed. 1074 (1922)) and a compilation of logarithms (Edwards & 
Deutsch Lithographing Co. v. Boorman, 15 F.2d 35 (7th Cir.1926)). In each case the 
copyright depended on the fact that the compiler made a contribution--a new arrangement 
or presentation of facts--and not on the amount of time the work consumed.

[12] Here Rockford Map made a contribution. Its employees dug through the records and
turned the metes and bounds of the legal descriptions into a pictorial presentation. 
Teasing pictures from the debris left by conveyancers is a substantial change in the 
form of the information. The result is copyrightable, no matter how quickly Rockford 
Map's staff could do the work. See Robert A. Gorman, Copyright Protection for the 
Collection and Representation of Facts, 76 Harv.L.Rev. 1569, 1573-76 (1963).

[13] The remaining arguments carry little force. Directory Service tells us that it 
did not infringe because its agent, too, was industrious. This is irrelevant. The 
infringement comes from the fact that Directory Service copied Rockford Map's output, 
not from the fact that it ended with a different plat map. Directory Service may make 
all the plat maps it wants; everyone is free to repeat the facts contained in the 
deeds. But it may not use Rockford Map's work as the template. All Rockford Map's 
copyright covered was the arrangement and presentation of the information, the 
translation from dusty books of legal jargon to a picture. It was exactly this 
contribution that Directory Service borrowed.

[14][15] All concede, as Learned Hand said in Jewelers' Circular, supra, 274 F. at 935,
that "a second compiler may check back his independent work upon the original 
compilation." The right to "check back" does not imply a right to start with the 
copyrighted work. Everyone must do the same basic work, the same "industrious 
collection." "A subsequent compiler is bound to set about doing for himself what the 
first compiler has done." Kelly v. Morris, [1866] 1 Eq. 697, 701 (Wood, V.C.). The 
second compiler must assemble the material as if there had never been a first 
compilation; only then may the second compiler use the first as a check on error. [FN3]
Here, as in Schroeder, the second compiler started with the selection, ordering, and 
arrangement of the first. The district court found that Directory Service "did not 
make an independent production. To the contrary, it merely took the copyrighted RMP 
information and edited it." That Directory *150 Service made some changes is 
irrelevant; the starting point itself offended.


FN3. The copyright on the 1948 maps of Ford County was not renewed, so these plat 
maps are in the public domain. Directory Service therefore could have started with
the 1948 maps. It did not. The subsequent maps are "derivative works," and the 
arrangement of information in them was copyrightable under <section> 103(b) to the 
extent it was not in the 1948 maps. Most of the arrangement in the 1983 versions 
post-dates 1948.


[16][17] The district court awarded attorneys' fees and costs of about $22,000, the 
amount Rockford Map actually paid its lawyers. Directory Service points out that 
Rockford Map recovered only $250 in statutory damages. This is hardly a good measure 
of the stakes of the litigation, however. Rockford Map received an injunction halting 
the distribution of the infringing works. This decision affects the whole of Rockford 
Map's business, including disputes between these two parties concerning other counties. 
Viewed from this perspective, $22,000 is quite a modest fee. See Taylor v. Meirick, 
712 F.2d 1112, 1122 (7th Cir.1983). The award of fees in copyright cases rests in the 
discretion of the district court, Toksvig v. Bruce Pub. Co., 181 F.2d 664 (7th Cir.1950)
, a discretion not abused here. Rockford Map also is entitled to fees for work done in
this court. It has 15 days to file an appropriate statement with the clerk.

AFFIRMED.

768 F.2d 145 (7th Cir. 1985)