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Statistical data published in newspapers
Are they copyright?
jmorgan




msg:3681438
 1:37 pm on Jun 23, 2008 (gmt 0)

When statistical data is published in the newspapers, are they also covered by copyright or do they become public domain information?

I'm not talking about newspaper articles and their content. Just a bunch of numbers that get reported weekly. I'm planning on collecting them and publishing some reports based on the collected data.

 

webfoo




msg:3681537
 3:15 pm on Jun 23, 2008 (gmt 0)

I don't think they're copryright, but you must cite the source.

Syzygy




msg:3681757
 6:50 pm on Jun 23, 2008 (gmt 0)

Facts are facts and not subject to copyright.

Quoting the source is not mandatory but very much recommended.

On one hand, doing so invariably adds weight to the information you're presenting, provides provenance, and, if used properly, makes people think you really know what you're talking about.

On the other hand, citing sources lets you off the hook should anyone claim the data is actually a load of drivel!

:-)

Syzygy

farmboy




msg:3681895
 9:42 pm on Jun 23, 2008 (gmt 0)

When statistical data is published in the newspapers, are they also covered by copyright or do they become public domain information?

What type of data? Is the newspaper just repeating data they require from a public domain source or is the newspaper developing the data?

If this is just public domain information, it would be better to go directly to the source and not copy the newspaper.

FarmBoy

jimbeetle




msg:3681908
 9:59 pm on Jun 23, 2008 (gmt 0)

Yeah, I'd say it depends on the source of the stats. Government generated, go find the source. On the other hand, if the newspaper is reporting on a privately-funded poll or study of some sort about the only thing you can do is ask the source for permission.

jmorgan




msg:3681911
 10:01 pm on Jun 23, 2008 (gmt 0)

Well, the data is definitely based on facts (and you're right, how can you copyright facts?) but, the thing is, they hire people to collect and/or pay for the data from a variety of sources. I do not have the resources or money to source the data like that and it would be easier for me to just use what they have published.

Would they somehow be able to determine that I am not legally allowed to use the data that they have put some effort into collecting?

eventus




msg:3682106
 4:23 am on Jun 24, 2008 (gmt 0)

First: Facts are Publici Juris.. or in the Public domain.

The express of the facts are covered by copyright. However the raw data of the facts is not..

However beware, the AP has been trying to use "Hot News" mis appropriation. (many say against fair-use or law) to claim ownership of the facts.

Standford Univ. has a great copyright site. Also a google search for AP "Hot News" may prove for some interesting conversation.

Syzygy




msg:3682111
 4:44 am on Jun 24, 2008 (gmt 0)

Have no fears. There are no strings attached to the publishing of facts. If it worries you just reword the data slightly, but even that's not necessary.The whole point of this type of data is not just that it is in the public domain, but that it's been released by the collators specifically for the public domain. On top of that, all compilers of surveys and facts love to see their work quoted - that's the whole point of it.

...is the newspaper developing the data?

It does not matter who develops the data, once it is released it is public information. Yes, it would be nice to go to source to ensure that all the data sets are available and to ensure accuracy of reporting, but that does not affect anything in regards to copyright: the information is still in the public domain.

Again, if concerned - although there's no reason to be - just ensure that you cite the source.

Three quarters of people surveyed believe that 75% of statistics are useless. Source: Syzygy.

:-)

Syzygy

[edited by: Syzygy at 4:44 am (utc) on June 24, 2008]

farmboy




msg:3682451
 3:23 pm on Jun 24, 2008 (gmt 0)

Well, the data is definitely based on facts (and you're right, how can you copyright facts?)

"Based on facts" can be very different from "facts." There is factual information that not only can be protected by copyright but also constitutes protected trade secret.

...and it would be easier for me to just use what they have published.

Not to be too dramatic, but instead of working, it would be easier for me to just steal money from those who do work. That doesn't make it ethical or legal.

Would they somehow be able to determine that I am not legally allowed to use the data that they have put some effort into collecting?

Which are you more concerned about, getting caught or doing the right thing?

I had a client who developed and sold lists of certain information based on "facts" obtained from required government filings. Although the basic facts couldn't be copyrighted, their presentation of the facts certainly could and was. They regularly "seeded" their presentation and it made it very easy to see who was copying their work.

Have no fears. There are no strings attached to the publishing of facts.

Yes there are strings attached.

The whole point of this type of data is not just that it is in the public domain, but that it's been released by the collators specifically for the public domain.

Again, I disagree.

On top of that, all compilers of surveys and facts love to see their work quoted - that's the whole point of it.

Once again, I disagree with this as a blanket statement.

This is one of the oldest rationalizations in the book and probably the one that gets people into trouble the most often.

It does not matter who develops the data, once it is released it is public information.

I disagree.

FarmBoy

jimbeetle




msg:3682479
 3:45 pm on Jun 24, 2008 (gmt 0)

they hire people to collect and/or pay for the data from a variety of sources

Well, definitely sounds like a compilation. I'd get some good legal advice before using the data.

webfoo




msg:3682498
 4:00 pm on Jun 24, 2008 (gmt 0)

It can't hurt to just ask permission to use their facts. If you word it carefully, they'll probably say yes.

Farmboy, I see your point, but money isn't in the public domain - facts are. You say that you disagree, but you don't explain why. How can you copyright a fact? Sure, you could publish facts and copyright the publication, but the facts themselves still remain in the public domain.

I would cite the source - that gives the facts an air of authority.

webfoo




msg:3682500
 4:00 pm on Jun 24, 2008 (gmt 0)

Three quarters of people surveyed believe that 75% of statistics are useless. Source: Syzygy.

75% of all statistics are made up on the spot.

farmboy




msg:3682532
 4:39 pm on Jun 24, 2008 (gmt 0)

...but you don't explain why.

Those who want to do things honestly will turn to authorative sources rather a discussion on a message board.

For those who want to be told it's OK to just take the easy road, trying to explain to them is an exercise in futility.

The OP seemed to be seeking opinions/feedback instead of affirmation. Various opinion and feedback has been offered. It's up to the OP to decide what do do now - that's the most anyone should expect from a message forum.

[webmasterworld.com...]

FarmBoy

jimbeetle




msg:3682573
 5:21 pm on Jun 24, 2008 (gmt 0)

facts are

The problem with this discussion is that we don't really know -- for a fact -- that this "Just a bunch of numbers that get reported weekly," are in fact actually facts.

The OP hasn't been very forthcoming. All we know is that it is some sort of statistical data that, in some cases people are hired to collect, in other cases it is paid for.

Best advice,jmorgan, is to pay for an hour of an attorney's time.

Syzygy




msg:3682590
 5:51 pm on Jun 24, 2008 (gmt 0)

To quote the OP:

When statistical data is published in the newspapers...

There is no moral argument over what is right and wrong here, this is not about honesty: published facts are in the public domain.

How and why do you think it's in the newspaper in the first place? Because both the organisation(s) compiling the data and those printing it want the facts made public!

75% of all statistics are made up on the spot.

Glad someone got my joke :-)

Syzygy

jimbeetle




msg:3682622
 6:19 pm on Jun 24, 2008 (gmt 0)

Syzygy, you're the one that first used the word "fact." The OP started of by calling it "statistical data," then went as far to say " Well, the data is definitely based on facts." [emphasis added]

That "based on" can run a whole gamut of things and unless you or we know what it is we can't make an even uneducated guess as to what's what.

Syzygy




msg:3682668
 7:06 pm on Jun 24, 2008 (gmt 0)

To quote jmorgan:

When statistical data is published in the newspapers...

Just a bunch of numbers that get reported weekly.

...the data is definitely based on facts...

Where's the mystery? Lol!

Syzygy

ergophobe




msg:3682843
 12:44 am on Jun 25, 2008 (gmt 0)


Copyright protects the particular way an author has expressed himself; it does not extend to any ideas, systems, or factual information conveyed in the work.

The safest course is always to get permission from the copyright owner before using copyrighted material. The Copyright Office cannot give this permission.

From: [copyright.gov...]

Of course, the key issue is at what point it is a fact and when it becomes presentation.

callivert




msg:3682859
 1:55 am on Jun 25, 2008 (gmt 0)

all compilers of surveys and facts love to see their work quoted - that's the whole point of it.

not true. The "whole point of it" is often to provide compelling information and entertainment that will sell newspapers, attract eyeballs, and so on, to help with the sale of advertising.

published facts are in the public domain.

I think you're getting two things mixed up: "free and publicly accessible" and "public domain." They're not the same thing. "Public domain" has a very specific legal meaning when it comes to Copyright.
If published factual content is a Copyright free-for-all, then every newspaper article would be Copyright exempt, because after all, they're just facts, right? If that was true, then the recent legal wranglings over wire stories in Google News would not have happened.

The whole point of this type of data is not just that it is in the public domain, but that it's been released by the collators specifically for the public domain

again, this rests on a misunderstanding of what is meant by the term "public domain." Surveyers and reporters of statistical facts are usually not as altruistic as you seem to think.

Syzygy




msg:3682901
 4:27 am on Jun 25, 2008 (gmt 0)

I've never seen something so simple become so clouded and confused! Such is the nature of the subject matter I suppose.

A newspaper runs a snippet of statistical data: "5% of all cats hate their owners". A magazine reports on a survey of growth in fmcg and quotes that "the rise in the consumption of chocolate bars continues at £5 million per household per quarter".

Another source - a magazine, another newspaper, a TV show - wants to use that information. Where are the copyright issues exactly?

The media has been doing it since statistical data was first bandied about in its pages. Publications love to publish 'factoids' - little snippets of information, usually statistically based - to add interest to features and articles.

I've done it for years in magazines. Also, actually I've seen statistical data that I've produced being freely reproduced from one media channel to the next, so I've seen at first hand how statistical information can spread. It's the way things are.

Some research companies make fortunes doing exactly as jmorgan described in his original post and in-house marketing depts, analysts, reporters, authors and a plethora of others do it!

There are no issues in the context described!

Syzygy

callivert




msg:3682923
 6:04 am on Jun 25, 2008 (gmt 0)

just to show that intuitions might not be right...
United States government statistics [bls.gov] are Public Domain, while Australian government statistics [abs.gov.au] are Copyright.
Newspaper articles are copyright.
"Facts" might not be copyright, but it isn't clear - without talking to a lawyer - just exactly what that means or how it applies in any particular situation.

I've never seen something so simple become so clouded and confused!

Copyright law isn't simple.

farmboy




msg:3683099
 1:49 pm on Jun 25, 2008 (gmt 0)

just to show that intuitions might not be right...
United States government statistics are Public Domain, while Australian government statistics are Copyright.

UK Government statistics may be used for private study or research purposes without prior approval. Using those for any other purpose requires a license.

Further, stats on the UK site produced by third parties can't be copied without authorization of the copyright holders. [statistics.gov.uk...]

Of course, those who want to take the easy road and seek to offer rationalization will copy those statistics at will, put them on a site to make money and call it "research."

And they will call every bit of compiled data, statistics, etc "facts" in an effort to excuse their activities.

This is why I mentioned above that conversing with these people is basically an exercise in futility.
Thieves are often talented at making excuses.

Here's a lengthy treatment of copyright protection for databases, facts, statistics, etc. from the US Copyright Office's site - [copyright.gov...]

FarmBoy

Syzygy




msg:3683341
 6:11 pm on Jun 25, 2008 (gmt 0)

You guys are missing the point.

The issue is not about whether one can freely take protected statistical data from sources like the UK Statistics Office without their permission and reproduce it copyright free. Nor are we discussing the relevancy of copyright as it pertains to databases/compiled data, etc.

What we're looking at is information that has been freely and readily introduced to the public through being published in the media.

Here are the search results for news stories containing the word 'survey' on Google News [news.google.co.uk] in the past month.

I'm seeing 133,695 stories that contain something about a survey. Not all will be about the type of survey we're looking at here, but rest assured many will.

By making such data available to the media, those who distribute it - in the form of press releases, reports, briefings, etc, - are allowing those whom they supply the information to, and the rest of the world, including their dog, the right to quote or use that information.

Here are some facts that I've just taken from General Motors:

General Motors Corp. (NYSE: GM), the world’s largest automaker, has been the global industry sales leader for 76 years. Founded in 1908, GM today employs about 280,000 people around the world. With global headquarters in Detroit, GM manufactures its cars and trucks in 33 countries. In 2006, nearly 9.1 million GM cars and trucks were sold...

I've not infringed anyone's rights by reproducing the data here.

GM might be concerned that I've reproduced their info word for word - copied it - but beyond that there are no issues whatsoever.

Here are some more statistical facts, this time taken from a current BBC story on US interest rates [news.bbc.co.uk]:

In the housing market, property prices fell by their fastest rate since 2000, according to the Case-Schiller home price index released on Tuesday.

Prices in the 20 cities it monitors were 15.3% lower in April compared to the year before.

The narrower 10-city index was 16.3% down, its biggest decline in its more than two-decade history.

If I use these publicly released figures on my site or in a magazine, or indeed anywhere, I am not infringing anyone's copyrights. Or is it a case that in fact it's the BBC who is doing the infringing as they're using someone else's data..? Come on now!

Information of the kind we are discussing - statistical data - released to and published by the media is public information.

Stuff like statistical data spreads across the internet like a bad cold, especially when it's good: one site publishes it, another pics up the story and runs with it - and uses the same, or even more data. Other sites take an interest and soon your figures are everywhere, if you're lucky.

If it's in the news and its a fact then that fact is in the public realm. And we haven't even mentioned the US principle of Fair Use yet...

Syzygy

[edited by: Syzygy at 6:13 pm (utc) on June 25, 2008]

dulldull




msg:3691857
 2:27 am on Jul 7, 2008 (gmt 0)

The Economist Intelligence Unit sends me a report every week. That's statistic, but they clearly note that I can reproduce a part of their list with their credit quoted, but never the whole list.

It's a fair use. Law changes in different countries.

If you're going to run a big statistic website aimed at collecting non-US gov't statistical report, i'm sure there'll be potential troubles with it.

Beagle




msg:3692465
 5:48 pm on Jul 7, 2008 (gmt 0)

Of course, all we have is the OP's word on this:
I'm planning on collecting them and publishing some reports based on the collected data.

But if that's true, then so is this:
Nor are we discussing the relevancy of copyright as it pertains to databases/compiled data, etc.

...which would be the problem with this:
The Economist Intelligence Unit sends me a report every week. That's statistic, but they clearly note that I can reproduce a part of their list with their credit quoted, but never the whole list.

The list is their compilation and expression of the data, and that's what's copyrighted - not the data themselves. Reproducing the list is a completely different issue than using some of their statistics in your own report.

The link to the U.S. Govt. copyright site given by farmboy is a good one - but it's specifically about compilations, and repeats the basic statement that facts and ideas cannot be copyrighted. Some people misuse the term "research," but that doesn't mean true research never occurs.

I feel obliged to add that, after reading Syzygy's posts regarding copyright and copywriting for 3+ years, I find it odd to see him lumped together with people looking for "the easy road."

[edited by: Beagle at 6:28 pm (utc) on July 7, 2008]

BigDave




msg:3693956
 2:12 am on Jul 9, 2008 (gmt 0)

In the United States, the facts are not protected by copyright, though as others have suggested, the presentation of those facts might be protected.

An example of this is a list of telephone numbers, such as a directory, and what sort of creativity might have gone into that list.

An alphabetical list of phone numbers by the last name of the person is not protected according to the courts, because that is pretty much a standard way to list things in the english speaking world.

A listing by category, when you create the categories, can be protected in its expression. You can feel free to extract and use the "facts" from that directory, but it would but playing with fire to copy the directory structure. You are probably safe to copy the white pages, but they yellow pages would be risky.

oddsod




msg:3694318
 12:57 pm on Jul 9, 2008 (gmt 0)

That something has been published in the media makes it publicly available information, not information in the "public domain [dictionary.reference.com]".

I spend a lot of time and money tracking the sales of domains, websites and online businesses - the metrics that influence buying prices etc. I use that data to create formulae to predict the prices of sites that haven't yet come up for sale.

I wouldn't like anyone to completely reproduce the data I send out to a few "friends" about the stats collected, or the price predictions made using my data and my Intellectual Property (formulae). Quote one or two figures, yes, but with full disclosure about the source and perhaps an invitation for the reader to visit my site.

Syzygy




msg:3694583
 5:11 pm on Jul 9, 2008 (gmt 0)

@Beagle: thanks for that! :-)

@ the world-at-large:

In the public domain - belonging to the public as a whole

Source: The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary

:-)

Syzygy

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