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37 Responses

  1. EH says:

    To his credit, Mr. Delaney is a past president of his local Rotary Club, and appears not to have had a stroke…lately.

  2. EH says:

    It's true, I'm an idiot!

  3. Rhonda Lea Kirk Fries says:

    "Your client is using the ABA Routing Numbers for his own commercial gain, namely to generate advertising revenues, in violation of this restriction."

    I've started using Disconnect instead of DoNotTrackMe, so maybe my new tool is defective or something–it didn't find any ads or trackers on Thatcher's site. Then again, neither did AdBlock Plus. Perhaps it too is broken.

    [wanders off to lodge various support requests]

  4. Alan D. says:

    Too bad there wasn't a routing number for the Bank of Streisand. Amirite?

  5. L Nettles says:

    I admire a lawyer who puts a footnote on his own name.

  6. Fasolt says:

    The next time I'm in Vermont, I'm stopping by their office wearing a bit of purple. Hey, free lollipops.

  7. nlp says:

    That letter just made getting out of bed this morning all worthwhile.

  8. Tim! says:

    @Rhonda: There's 1 google ad on the page.

  9. SPQR says:

    Ooooo, in addition to our other lame arguments, your client is using the data on the Federal Reserve site in violation of an unenforceable faux "restriction"….

  10. Sterling Archer says:

    Awesome. I've actually been following the blogger for a bit because I sometimes need a list of routing numbers for my work.

  11. Grifter says:

    The banks (or at least my bank) list their routing numbers on their website.

    And, I hear tell that they print them on every check!

  12. Rhonda Lea Kirk Fries says:


    Huh. Even with everything turned off, I still can't find it.

  13. KronWeld says:

    Nice, but I'm not sure they are copyright lawyers. Sounds like they have not heard of the Berne Convention, "…the United States became a member of the Berne Convention on March 1, 1989." … "the United States changed its law on March 1, 1989, to make the use of a copyright notice optional."


  14. andrews says:

    Berne Convention

    Last I heard, 1909 and 1911 pre-date the convention; publication without the notice may well have allowed some combinations of 4 digits to slip into the public domain. For at least some years, the banksters would need to find the author of those numbers and have him re-assign the copyrights to them.

  15. Ibidem says:

    "Since routing numbers have been around since 1911…that would seem problematic for your position. We understand your argument that some new routing numbers are copyright-protected…"

    In other words, only things first published after March 1, 1989 are automatically copyrighted. Most routing numbers are not included in that, even if they were copyrightable.

  16. Michael K. says:

    Footnote #7 FTW

  17. Rob says:

    Sterling Archer • Nov 5, 2013 @8:26 pm

    Awesome. I've actually been following the blogger for a bit because I sometimes need a list of routing numbers for my work.

    I thought Cyril was the accountant…

  18. rxc says:

    Back round 1993, when I worked for a Federal Agency, and all documentation and regulations existed only on paper, one of our more ambitious managers sold (!) the right to digitize our own set of regulations to a private company. They were given the exclusive right to digitize the regs and sell copies on CDs. I heard about it when I started up a project to make digital copies of the regs available on the WWW, which was just coming into existence.

    The manager who made the deal insisted that this private company had the exclusive right to digital regulations, for at least 3 years, and I had to stop that part of the project. I never found out what happened to the deal when Newt Gingrich had the Library of Congress digitize everything and make it available for free. I wonder if the company sent Newt a nasty letter…

  19. Tom says:

    Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay off topic, but HOLY FUCKING SHITBALLS! Clark! Ken! Ken's adorable kids! Via Angus! Somebody, but fucking somebody! Get this link to David asap:

  20. Anony Mouse says:

    I know, right? I read this letter and was all like, No way!

  21. garrick says:

    As usual, your post made my morning. Thanks for the share!

  22. Jamie says:

    I'm from Montpelier, VT and this made my day, thanks Ken! :)

  23. Anonymous Coward says:

    One must wait when dealing with a large and venerable firm like Covington & Burling, the sort of place where the stick up their ass has a stick up its ass.

    This is the best line I've read so far this week. Thanks :)

  24. CW McCall says:

    This makes me happy. I actually sent an email to Ken about this in July, but it looks like he was already on the case and aware. I use(d) this site extensively at work and was pretty bummed when I saw the news about the bully tactics. Pretty pumped that things will get sorted out for the better.

    Also, the letter is amazeballs.

  25. Rhonda Lea Kirk Fries says:

    Amazon just shipped five pounds of YumEarth organic lollipops to Andrew Delaney.

    That should keep the process servers busy for a while.

  26. Palimpsest says:

    So isn't the ABA violating the cited Federal Reserve statement that the numbers may not be used for gain by claiming them as their property? It's handy when the opposition provides the evidence that they are not entitled to what they are claiming is theirs.

  27. Robb Shecter says:

    "This argument is like the Post Office suing you for posting a list of zip codes."

    That's pretty close to what just happened to me: the USPS asserted that the zip codes are trade secrets and rejected my FOIA request for a list:

  28. DRJlaw says:

    Feist and "words and short phrases" are essentially the only two things that you need to know here.

    Feist — Supreme Court decision that held that facts and mere compilations of facts are not copyrightable subject matter. While a particular selection and arrangement of fact can include expression worthy of copyright, that protection is thin and good judges will be very interested in separating creative expression from attempts to protect mere "sweat of the brow" effort.

    "words and short phrases" 37 C.F.R. 202.1(a) and its predecessors have exluded names, titles, and slogans and the like, no matter how pithy, from copyright protection since well before the 1976 act. You can argue whether that regulatory policy is sound, but it is so.

    Southco Inc. v. Kanebridge Corp., 390 F.3d 276 (3rd Cir. 2004), and ATC Distribution Group Inc. v. Whatever It Takes Transmissions & Parts Inc., 402 F.3d 700 (6th Cir. 2005), relied upon the regulation in denying copyright infringment claims relating to part numbers. Routing numbers are no different.

    Delancy and Pivar-Federici (the authors of the letter) appropriately dug up Feist but didn't dig up the "words and short phrases" exclusion. Nor raise the fact that you must register the copyright before bringing a suit for copyright infringement. Probably too much geekery, but I would have loved to see an alternate closing such as "If you do feel it's necessary to sue our client, please have your complaint with attached copyright registration certificate served upon us by flying pig. We're confident that anyone able to obtain a registered copyright in a 9 digit number could easily fulfill such a comparatively simple request."

  29. marvo says:

    In addition to infringing the ABA's copyright, Mr. Thatcher's actions may put the public at risk. We have found instances where unauthorized sites are disseminating inaccurate information.

    Perhaps a letter telling them that if they have instances of inaccuracies and have not sent them along leaves them liable for the 'public at risk' might elicit a response?

  30. Dr. Ken Noisewater says:

    "This argument is like the Post Office suing you for posting a list of zip codes."

    Perhaps you spoke too soon…

  31. SPQR says:

    Noisewater, a ridiculous response by USPS as the aggregation of all zip codes can't be a tradesecret – it does not meet the elements of trade secret law.

  32. SPQR says:

    rxc, so your boss never heard of 17 USC 105?

  33. Steve Worona says:

    Ken, who gets credit for the filename NigelNigelWhereforeArtThouNigel.pdf on Andrew Delaney's "we expected a response" letter to Nigel Howard? If Delaney, another +1 for him. If you, also nice touch.

  34. DRJlaw says:


    The prohibition on copyright for works of the federal government is not as clear cut as that. Contractors and employees of contractors can produce copyrightable works and be required to assign the copyrights to the government under the contract.

    Also, the Federal Reserve is a messy system with a core that is essentially a Federal agency, but component Federal Reserve Banks that have a weird hybrid legal status (see summary of Lewis v. U.S.). This considerably complicates matters.

  35. This has some parallels to a case I was involved in where I received a demand letter for republishing non-copyrightable works (in this case, digitizations of public domain paintings, details at I was fortunate enough to also have pro bono representation. Copyright is expansive enough as it is without people trying to claim rights to things that are plainly not copyrightable.

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