Telstra has lost an appeal to keep telephone directories published by its subsidiary Sensis copyrighted.
Chief Justice Patrick Keane this morning dismissed Telstra's appeal to the full bench of the Federal Court to overturn a decision made earlier this year. It is believed the decision was unanimous, which impacts Telstra's chances of successfully appealing it through the High Court.
"Sensis is obviously disappointed by today's decision in the Federal Court. We will now spend some time reviewing the judgement and considering our options", a spokesman said.
In February, Justice Michelle Gordon decided the Yellow Pages and White Pages directories were not protected by copyright laws because they were not an "independent intellectual effort" and the work of computers rather than authors.
The decision has ramifications for all creators of lists, such as television schedules, classified listings, real estate directories and other databases.
Chief Justice Keane said the directories were published using computerised systems and Telstra had argued the information was copyrighted, but not the database or software.
"The principal contention of the respondents (Phone Directories) is that the directories were compiled, not by the individuals engaged to facilitate the process, but by a computerised process of storing, selecting, ordering and arranging the data to produce the directories in the form in which they were published," his judgement said.
"In my respectful opinion, the principal contention of the respondents should be accepted, and the decision of the trial judge should be upheld for that reason."
Telstra originally sued Phone Directories Company, alleging it gleaned information from the Yellow Pages and White Pages.
Justice Gordon's ruling against Telstra in the original case was based on2009 case between IceTV and Nine Network Australia Pty Limited, where IceTV was allegedly reproducing Nine's television guide.
Justice Gordon agreed that because the work was done by computers and not individual humans or identifiable authors, it was not protected by the Copyright Act.
Sensis contributed $2.3 billion in revenue to Telstra last financial year, of which the Yellow Pages contributed $1.3 billion and the White Pages $415 million.