Facts and Databases
[This post is an addendum to the earlier essay on Open Data: Openness and Licensing]
It is important to be clear that any IP ‘rights’ in data(bases) are not ‘rights’ in the facts those data represent but in the ‘data collection’ (or database). Here I try to explain the difference (fairly crudely) with some examples. For more on this and IP ‘rights’ in data(bases) in general see the Guide to Open Data Licensing.
Geodata. Suppose we have a database of longitude and latitude pairs for cities. Now, no-one can ‘own’ the fact that London is at a particular long/lat. However, it may be possible for someone to have an ‘IP’ (monopoly) right in their particular collection of such facts. In that case, if you go out and copy the long/lat from the protected database you might well infringe but if you go and calculate the long-lat yourself you won’t.
Chemistry. Alternatively, consider boiling points of substances. No-one can stop you going and calculating (and publishing) the boiling point of some substance but someone might be able to stop you if your data was taken direct from their database.
To summarize: “You can’t get IP rights in facts but you can (in some jurisdictions) get them in a collection of data representing those facts”