Are technical specifications copyrighted?

13 replies
I'd like to list the manufacturer technical specs for an electronic product on my site. Is it OK to do that or do I have to get permission? I know you have to site the source for copyrighted material but not sure how this would work. I see tech data on all different sites...
#copyrighted #specifications #technical
  • Profile picture of the author writeaway
    Berne convention seems to indicate they are. Be careful.
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  • Profile picture of the author cynthiaSEL
    Ask!

    Companies that have products want those products to get sold.

    So go ahead and ask.

    Let them know your plan. Ask if that's good or if they've got a better suggestion that'd help you sell more of their product.
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  • Profile picture of the author Warrior X
    I don't see how anyone would have a problem with it. That'd be like
    saying you can't write about what horsepower or how many seats a car has
    because it's copyrighted.

    Jeremy
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    • Profile picture of the author JohnMcCabe
      Technical specs fall under the same category as the ingredient list in a recipe, the box score of a baseball game or a listing in the phone book. They are simple facts. You can use technical specs without violating copyright.

      Like the actual instructions for a recipe or the recap of the same baseball game, anything else the manufacturer publishes would likely be subject to copyright. You would either have to get permission or stick to Fair Use (small, attributed quotes for illustration or criticism, for example).
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    • Profile picture of the author jacktackett
      Be careful. Copyright is only one aspect of intellectual property. Companies need to protect their ip so it doesn't matter if they 'have no problem' they would still need to protect it or risk losing it.
      Note IANAL nor do I play one on TV - there's a reason there are so many ip lawyers out there.
      The best advice you've gotten so far is to ask permission.


      Originally Posted by Warrior X View Post

      I don't see how anyone would have a problem with it. That'd be like
      saying you can't write about what horsepower or how many seats a car has
      because it's copyrighted.

      Jeremy
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      • Profile picture of the author seasoned
        Originally Posted by jacktackett View Post

        Be careful. Copyright is only one aspect of intellectual property. Companies need to protect their ip so it doesn't matter if they 'have no problem' they would still need to protect it or risk losing it.
        Note IANAL nor do I play one on TV - there's a reason there are so many ip lawyers out there.
        The best advice you've gotten so far is to ask permission.
        Yeah, they CAN patent an implementation(technical equivalent of written expression), but those are often not expressed in specs. But if they say HOW they do something, and it is peculiar to that company and not well known, you SHOULD avoid that.

        Steve
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  • Profile picture of the author onSubie
    If you are relaying the technical specification as part of the review and the source of those specification is the manufacturer that is fine:

    The BradB Amplifier is a 40 W per channel amplifier with 8 ohm impedance and a small footprint of 18x25 cm.

    The Dell Super 1200 PC has an 8.9 GHz processor, ESATA, USB2 and USB3 support, 12 GB RAM.

    Andromeda Phone
    - 8 MP Camera
    - 30 mm lens
    - 8 GB RAM
    - IICE 4 compatible
    - 3 oz
    - 60x30 mm

    or

    We here at Stereo Blaster Reviews were blown away by the performance of the new Sononia BX-345 Amplifier. Unfortunately, due to copyright restrictions were are unable to tell you about any of its awesome class leading technical specifications....




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  • Profile picture of the author gebyarandyono
    I do agree with cynthiaSEL answer. Ask the company that the product you want sell. I think they should be happy to assist you what you can do or don't regarding their product or technical spec of their product.
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  • Profile picture of the author MartinPlatt
    I'd say that you should ask permission just to be sure, but if the specifications aren't secret, if they are somewhere public, then there shouldn't be a problem, as you're not giving away secret details.
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    Martin Platt

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  • Profile picture of the author seasoned
    John is right, you can't copyright facts. You CAN copyright the EXPRESSION of those facts, so don't copy.

    Steve
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  • Profile picture of the author seasoned
    BTW at one point the ENTIRE ibm workalike industry had a fact WRONG! WHY? Because they copied at least parts of the little settings manual, and the IBM PC had an error! In those days, there was a little dip switch and one switch indicated whether the 8087 was installed or not. Luckily, it was an expensive part that wasn't necessary(the 8087APU), so few found that out. It was considered a fact though, and I guess nobody bothered to take the error into account.

    The thomas maps, on the other hand, once named certain streets to help protect things. Originally those street names weren't facts since they were not official.

    One phone book company sued another because of the unusual order. Other things weren't a concern since they were facts.

    Steve
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  • Profile picture of the author Letsurf
    Thanks for all the great info everyone. I think what I'll do is make my own wording and then list the facts. For example instead of Type of camera I would put Camera Type... From what I understand it's all fact so as long as I present it in a different way I'll be OK. Plus I can't imagine any company wanting me to remove exposure to their products.
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    • Profile picture of the author JohnMcCabe
      Originally Posted by Letsurf View Post

      Thanks for all the great info everyone. I think what I'll do is make my own wording and then list the facts. For example instead of Type of camera I would put Camera Type... From what I understand it's all fact so as long as I present it in a different way I'll be OK. Plus I can't imagine any company wanting me to remove exposure to their products.
      You were doing fine up to the part I put in bold. Jack mentioned other facets of intellectual property beyond copyright, and he was correct to do so.

      One aspect that gets a lot of people in trouble is the issue of trademarks and service marks. If you use a trademark (like iPad (tm)) you should use the proper symbol and include something like 'iPad is a registered trademark of the Apple company' with your citations.

      Even then, they would be within their rights to ask (more like demand, no matter how polite the wording) that you not use their trademark. It may have nothing to do with you or how you are exposing their products. If they don't actively protect their marks, they can lose them.

      In this instance, and any other you are not sure of, the best policy is to ask. How you ask is another matter. Consider:

      > "Can I use your trademark name, [whatever], on my blog?"

      > "How do I properly acknowledge and attribute the trademark on your product [whatever]?"

      The first makes for a simple yes or no answer. The second assumes permission, and simply asks for the rules. They might still tell you no, but it's just as easy to shoot you a file with their policies.
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