7. Introduction to Copyright

What is the Purpose of Copyright?

Copyright means “the right to copy.” In general, copyright means the sole right to produce or reproduce a work or a substantial part of it in any form. It includes the right to perform the work or any substantial part of it or, in the case of a lecture, to deliver it. If the work is unpublished, copyright includes the right to publish the work or any substantial part of it. It provides protection for literary, artistic, dramatic or musical works (including computer programs) and other subject-matter known as performer’s performances, sound recordings, and communication signals (Government of Canada, 2019).

copyright, protection, regulation-4064225.jpg

How Does Copyright Apply to Data?

Applying for copyright is an important part of your Data Management Plan. Your funding agency may have specific requirements for this. It should be mentioned that copyright does not protect data; rather, it protects the expression of that data, for example, as an original compilation (Wilson Lue LLP News & Resources, 2018)

Data are considered “facts.” They are not copyrightable because they are discovered, not created as original works. Although data itself cannot be copyrighted, you may be able to own a copyright in the compilation of the data. Creative arrangement, annotation, or selection of data can be protected by copyright (Hawkins, 2021)

copyright free, creative, commons-98566.jpg The Common Example of Data Not Protected by Copyright

Data and factual information are not protected by copyright. Additionally, simple and typical visualizations such as line graphs and tables are often not creative enough to be eligible for copyright protection (SFU Library, 2021). These types of material may be able to be copied and used without permission. For example, temperature measurements, mortality rates, currency values, chemical structures, historical dates, or the number of Twitter followers.

copyright Examples of Data Commonly Protected by Copyright

  • Photographs, audiovisual recordings, detailed diagrams and charts, collections of text mined from websites or publications. 
  • If you are using someone else’s data in your teaching or research, you will need to consider its copyright status, and ensure that you have the right or permission to copy and share it. 
  • If you are generating or compiling data in your research, any copyright in these materials may belong to you, another member of your research team, or an external third party. 
  • If your data incorporates works created by others, you will need to consider the copyright status before sharing or making it public, unless your use of the work falls under fair dealing or a similar provision. 
  • If you are depositing to a research data repository, such as FRDR, you should ensure you have the right, or permission, from any rights holders, to deposit copyright-protected material (SFU Library, 2021).