[Rd] R datasets ownership(copyright) and license

Spencer Graves spencer.graves at structuremonitoring.com
Wed Apr 4 03:58:05 CEST 2012

On 4/3/2012 3:55 PM, Hadley Wickham wrote:
> On Tue, Apr 3, 2012 at 5:46 PM, Yaroslav Halchenko<yarikoptic at gmail.com>  wrote:
>> ;-)  Let's check where factual ends and fictional/personal/etc starts
>> and how easy to tell.
>> Are survey data asking for answers to specifically crafted original
>> questions (i.e. not just age/race/etc) factual? e.g.
>> \title{The Chatterjee--Price Attitude Data}
>> \description{
>>   From a survey of the clerical employees of a large financial
>>   organization, the data are aggregated from the questionnaires of the
>>   approximately 35 employees for each of 30 (randomly selected)
>>   departments.  The numbers give the percent proportion of favourable
>>   responses to seven questions in each department.}
>> \usage{attitude}
> I don't see how their could be any confusion here - it is a fact
> whether or not someone made a favourable response to a question.  I
> agree that there might be murky areas, but I don't think this is one.


       Lessig (2004) Free Culture "documents how (US) copyright power 
has expanded substantially since 1974 in five critical dimensions:

             * duration (from 32 to 95 years),

             * scope (from publishers to virtually everyone),

             * reach (to every view on a computer),

             * control (including "derivative works" defined so broadly 
that virtually any new content could be sued by some copyright holder as 
a "derivative work" of something), and

             * concentration and integration of the media industry."

[Quote from Wikipedia, "Free Culture (book)";  

       As noted earlier, the major media conglomerates have successfully 
used the ambiguities they got written into copyright law to block 
potential competitors and stifle creativity through the credible threats 
of lawsuits.


       One copyright claim the industry lost (as noted in "Free 
Culture") was an attempt to collect royalties from Girl Scouts for songs 
sung around campfires.  They didn't lose that case in a courtroom -- the 
law still allows them to sue in such cases:  They lost in the court of 
public opinion.

       For data sets in R, I think we need to look at the copyrights 
claimed in the package:  If the copyright says, e.g., GNU GPL, we should 
not worry about it much.  And I agree with Hadley that we should not 
worry much about the datasets published in R packages.

       I'm not an attorney, but I've been told many times that you can 
copyright expression but not ideas -- and certainly not facts.  Thus, 
you can copyright the format of a table of physical constants but not 
the constants themselves nor the relationship described by the 
organization of that table.

       However, the major media industry has demonstrated a capacity to 
sue when they feel their hegemony on public opinion is threatened.  Our 
primary defense is the defense of Gandhi:  Refusing to remain silent -- 
e.g., people making salt in defiance of law saying they couldn't or 
(more recently) Girl Scouts signing in public and refusing to pay 

       Best Wishes,
p.s.  The industry got the above extensions to copyright law by piously 
claiming they were needed " To promote the Progress of Science and 
useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the 
exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries", as it 
says in Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the US Constitution 
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright_law_of_the_United_States).  The 
claims of the industry as it pertains to academic research journals is 
completely bogus, because I have never received a dime for any of the 
technical papers I've written, even though I've been required to assign 
copyrights to some company, whose sole function in the age of the 
Internet is to prevent people from reading my work without paying the 
copyright holder:  This is an obstacle to "the progress of science and 
the useful arts."

> Hadley

Spencer Graves, PE, PhD
President and Chief Technology Officer
Structure Inspection and Monitoring, Inc.
751 Emerson Ct.
San José, CA 95126
ph:  408-655-4567
web:  www.structuremonitoring.com

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