[R] [OT] Is data copyrightable?

Spencer Graves spencer.graves at pdf.com
Sat May 12 22:20:42 CEST 2007

Dear Hadley: 

      Brian's reply seems more consistent with what I've heard than 

      The briefest summary I know of copyright law is that expression 
but not ideas can be copyrighted.  Copyright law exists to promote 
useful arts, and a compilation of data is intended to be useful.  
Google, led me to "http://ahds.ac.uk/copyrightfaq.htm#faq1?", says that 
"data or other materials which (a) are arranged in a systematic or 
methodical way, or (b) are individually accessible by electronic or 
other means" can be copyrighted.

      Beyond that, there is a "fair use" doctrine, which in the US at 
least allows use in many cases by educators in public institutions, but 
the same use by someone not affiliated with a public school might be an 
infringement.  Ten years ago, I heard from attorneys at the University 
of Wisconsin that a college prof can run copies of a journal article and 
distribute them to this class without worrying about copyright 
infringement (provided any money collected is clearly designed to cover 
costs not make a profit), but the same copies prepared by Kinko's off 
campus for the same class (sold perhaps at the same price) must get 
copyright permission. 

      Hope this helps. 
      Spencer Graves

Peter Dalgaard wrote:
> hadley wickham wrote:
>> Dear all,
>> This is a little bit off-topic, but I was wondering if anyone has any
>> informed opinion on whether data (ie. a dataset) is copyrightable?
>> Hadley
> In general not, I believe. E.g., I didn't have to ask formal permission 
> to use data from Altman's book in mine (and I did check with my 
> publisher). I suspect that things can get murkier than that though; I 
> seem to recall stories of plagiarism cases in relation to collections of 
> mathematical tables. Beware also that there can be other legal 
> complications, including rights to first publication of new results, 
> which usually implies that you cannot publish entire datasets until 
> their publication potential has been exhausted. And of course, proper 
> attribution is required for reasons of scientific integrity and general 
> courtesy. (Disclaimer: I Am Not A Lawyer, esp. not a US one...)
> ______________________________________________
> R-help at stat.math.ethz.ch mailing list
> https://stat.ethz.ch/mailman/listinfo/r-help
> PLEASE do read the posting guide http://www.R-project.org/posting-guide.html
> and provide commented, minimal, self-contained, reproducible code.

More information about the R-help mailing list