On Tuesday I attended a JISC Consultation Workshop on Rights in Digital Environments. While the emphasis of this meeting was on rights management issues in a learning environment, and on documents etc, there was some interesting discussion on data rights issues. Among a number of interesting discussions and presentations were two that I found especially interesting: one by Charles Oppenheim on IPR issues in general, and one by Podromos Tsiavos on Commons UK.

I especially liked the following :

  • A simple way of deciding about copyright and database rights, and whether relevant: Essentially: “Copyright is about creativity, and database rights are about investment of time and labour.” A digital object might enjoy both, one, or neither.
  • Also: “Copyright is less to do with the law than it is to do with the management of risk”. Oppenheim mentioned his formula for the financial risk of violating copyright, which should be compared with the effort and cost associated with getting copyright clearance. Essentially you need to multiply together the risks of various things happening against the possible financial implications of copyright violation (which may not be large, depending on what loss of income was involved the legal costs might be greater than the actual violation). The formula terms include something like:
    • chance of what you are doing actually offending copyright
    • chance of being noticed by the copyright holder
    • chance of the copyright holder actually objecting
    • chance of them actually taking you to court
    • value of potential liability


  • In the presentation on creative commons, I finally understood that actually the creative commons license isn’t one license it’s several (this is obvious actually, but only when you know :-).
  • There was general agreement that nearly no one actually reads licenses, and the Creative Commons icons were a very useful concept. Here, for my record are the icons.
  • The science commons project will explicitly look at the database rights issue, not just copyright for scientific activities.
  • The idea of using a (unique) identifier to link to a rights database was discussed, but the usual issues for globally unique identifiers intrude on actually doing it …
  • There are lots of IPR issues associated with metadata
    • Who owns it as we add layers?
    • Relationship to the data ownership and accompanying rights?
    • Note that auto-generated metadata becomes a “computer-generated work”
    • etc