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Publisher of Car Valuations Loses Copyright Appeal

October 2, 1995

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A company that sells computerized valuation reports on cars and trucks to insurance companies lost a Supreme Court appeal today in its bid to get out from under a copyright-infringement decision.

The justices, without comment, let stand a federal appeals court ruling that said CCC Information Services infringed on the copyright of Maclean Hunter Market Reports Inc., publisher of the much-used Red Book on vehicle values.

CCC Information Services compiles data on the value of vehicles for insurance companies that need to determine settlement values for insured customers’ total-loss claims.

In most cases, CCC surveys automobile dealers’ lots to come up with its valuation figures. But the laws of Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania require that total-loss insurance claims be settled on the average of the values stated in the Red Book and the National Automobile Dealers Association Bluebook.

Similar to the Bluebook, the Red Book is updated eight times a year and cites values of vehicles based on model, year of manufacture and engine type. Adjustments are listed for various options and mileage.

Rather than publish a book, CCC provides information to its customers through a computer data base.

In the four states requiring Red Book and Bluebook averages, CCC cites values as calculated by those publications.

CCC sued Maclean Hunter in 1991, seeking to have its valuation listings copyright declared invalid. Maclean Hunter countersued.

A federal judge in Connecticut ruled for CCC, relying heavily on a 1991 Supreme Court decision that said a white pages telephone directory, as a mere compilation of facts selected and organized without originality or creativity, was not entitled to copyright protection.

But the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the judge’s ruling. The appeals court said Maclean Hunter’s copyright in the Red Book was valid and had been infringed.

Noting that the vehicle values were based, at least in part, on professional judgment and expertise of Maclean Hunter employees, the appeals court said, ``The valuations themselves are original creations of Maclean.″

``We find that the selection and arrangement of data in the Red Book displayed amply sufficient originality to pass the low threshold requirement to earn copyright protection,″ the 1st Circuit court said.

Part of that originality, it added, was the Red Book’s practice of providing varying values on the same model vehicle based on what geographic market is involved.

In the appeal acted on today, lawyers for CCC argued that the appeals court ruling ``expands the copyright monopoly beyond the creative expression of work to include the idea expressed.″

The case is CCC Information Services vs. Maclean Hunter Market Reports, 94-2004.

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