[okfn-discuss] Re: [geo-discuss] copyright not applicable to geodata?

Rufus Pollock rufus.pollock at okfn.org
Wed Apr 4 16:39:14 UTC 2007

rob at robmyers.org wrote:
> Quoting Rufus Pollock <rufus.pollock at okfn.org>:
>> (i) Copyright in the Compilation. ... First, it [the DB directive] 
>> defines what is meant by a "database": "a collection of independent 
>> works, data or other materials arranged ina  systematic or methodical 
>> way and individually accessible by electronic or other means." [DB Dir 
>> Art 3] Then it allows copyright in a database (as distinct from its 
>> contents), but only on the basis of authorship involving involving 
>> personal intellectual creativity. This is a new limitation, so far as 
>> common law countries are concerned, and one which must presage a 
>> raising of the standard or originality throughout British Copyright 
>> law. Intellectual judgment which is in some sense the author's own 
>> must go either into choosing contents or into the method of 
>> arrangement. The selective dictionary will doubtless be a clearer case 
>> than the classificatory telephone directory but each may have some 
>> hope; the merely comprehensive will be precluded -- that is the 
>> silliness of the whole construct.
> So the OSM database of nodes and ways would be copyrightable if its 
> compilation
> required personal intellectual judgement? Creation of individual 
> sections of
> the database certainly require skill and judgement. Does the fact that this
> piecemeal creativity is used to populate the DB mean that the DB as a 
> whole is
> regarded as having been created with skill and judgement?

Good question. According to a comment on Jo's original post from Mike 
Smith (see [1]) the OS does *not* get copyright but does get DB right 

"As a member who fed into the GRADE report (by Charlotte Waelde) on 
database right and copyright for geodata, I subsequently blogged 
on the salient points that Charlotte raises in the report. Regardless of 
whether you believe geodata should be open/CC, Charlotte writes that 
copyright cannot be claimed and that database right is the one the 
subsists (for OS Mastermap in this instance) in the UK. This has 
important implications for how Mastermap is licensed in the UK. Of 
course, the big debate will be whether there is agreement that database 
right, rather than copyright, is appropriate.


That said I think this is an area in which there is as yet insufficient 
case law to conclusively determine whether the originality threshold 
really would exclude geodata especially skill and judgement had entered 
into the selection (choosing which pubs to put on OSM anyone?)

> And what about the GPS trace database? Surely individual GPS traces 
> can't be
> coipyrighted but could the database as a whole?

I would guess not since this is so low level and so straightforwardly 
comprehensive. That said, who knows for sure. My point here is why not 
just add a reference to the DB sui generis right into the CC licenses 
(or expand them to have general reference to relevant IP rights) and be 
done with it.


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