Statistics/OpenStat/Research projects/Copyright and the legal status of statistical material

There are a number of questions to be clarified:

  • Which source data is common and can be used in a meta-datasets?

I will here occasionally summarize the answers from the ongoing discussions at commons:Commons_talk:Licensing and w:de:Wikipedia:Urheberrechtsfragen.

Statistical (and any other) data by itself is not copyrightable at all, so you may use it as you wish. What can be copyrighted is the specific way of organizing and displaying them (i.e. a concrete graph made from that data etc.). You also need to be careful regarding a sui generis protection of databases (see e.g. w:Database rights) – if the data is compiled into a „database“, you cannot extract substantial parts from it without a permission of the database creator. IANAL. --Mormegil 15:41, 27 August 2007 (UTC)
I stress I am not a lawyer and you are asking quite difficult questions (since this matter is quite foggy, IMHO). I should also remind that this protection is mainly a matter of EU, I believe database protection is not applied in the US (but I might be mistaken).
To the point: No, the fact whether the information is in a special file format (Excel etc.) is not relevant. The respective direction defines a database as “a collection of independent works, data or other materials arranged in a systematic or methodical way and individually accessible by electronic or other means” and covers even non-electronic databases. The important definitory criterion is whether there has been “qualitatively and/or quantitatively [a] substantial investment in either the obtaining, verification or presentation of the contents”.
I repeat: the individual numbers are definitely not copyrightable. You are allowed to normally use the data from database in any way you want as long as you do not extract substantial parts of the database or “perform acts which conflict with normal exploitation of the database or unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the maker of the database”. Simply said, it is a question of measure; the protection is meant to prevent copying (almost) the whole database, not using the data in it.
Sui generis means that this is a new specific type of protection, not just an application of copyright. The protection is not limited by the definition of copyrightable work etc.
I am afraid I can’t provide more help; the best thing would be a consulation with a lawyer. I believe you might also try to ask at de:Wikipedia:Urheberrechtsfragen. (In that case, I would ask you to report any potential results, as it might help other users.)
--Mormegil 16:58, 30 August 2007 (UTC)