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Can a chart / table / spreadsheet of data be protected?

Posted: Fri Mar 12, 2021 4:41 pm
by battie83

I currently have an issue with copyright infringement.

How much original content has to be compiled before you infringe rights?

And can a list be original?

For instance a chart with 7 lines and 5 columns the lines being numbered 1 - 7. Would the 5 words for the columns be enough to protect? Words that are often used together in form format for a similar purpose? Like a form with Name, Address, Tel etc....

Is formatting of the list important if just lines and columns?

Thank you

Re: Can a chart / table / spreadsheet of data be protected?

Posted: Fri Mar 12, 2021 7:18 pm
by AndyJ
Hi battie,

There are two separate rights which we need to look at here. Each has its own set of criteria about what is protectable and what might amount to infringement.

Copyright cannot protect facts, like dates, addresses, personal names, a shopping list etc. In contrast, a literary work like a poem or even a short blog posting can be protected to the extent it is not a copy of something which has gone before, and it has the quality of being the creative expression of the mind of the author. So the content of a table may be subject to copyright if it has these latter qualities, and assuming that the content is in copyright, anyone who copies a substantial part of the work without permission may be liable for copyright infringement unless one of the specific set of legal exceptions is said to apply. As you can see, not all tables will qualify for copyright if they merely record facts. And even if the contents are not straightforward facts, they may lack the necessary creative element if the author is so limited by lack of space that what they write is very banal, and indeed could not really be expressed in any other way. When it comes to evaluating what is substantial about a copyright work, it is not usually a quantitative measure, such as a percentage or number of words, but is much more likely to be judged on qualitative grounds. In effect this means, what is the essence of the ideas, views or opinions etc which are being expressed? So again, depending on the purpose of tabulating something, the contents may be so close to being factual that almost the entire contents would need to be copied before it would amount to copyright infringement.

Database Right.
This is a separate right which is intended to protect the investment (in terms of both effort and financial resources) which is put into the creation and populating of a database. For this purpose a database is defined as any collection of independent works, data or other materials which are organised in a systematic or methodical way and are individually accessible by electronic or other means. As you can see database right could well apply to a chart, table or spreadsheet which is made up of data or facts which would not be protected by copyright, provided that there has been substantial investment in obtaining, verifying or presenting the contents. And infringement of a database can occur where someone extracts or re-utilises a substantial part of the contents of the database. Here the evaluation of 'substantial' generally means the quantity of the contents which has been taken. Thus the repeated and systematic extraction of small parts of the database over a period of time can amount to a substantial extraction. It is worth stating that the current status of database right is somewhat diminished because it was previously introduced into UK law as a European Union initiative and applied to a database made by any national of an EU member state. Since the UK has left the Union, the right remains in UK law but the reciprocal nature of the right between the UK and the remaining 27 EU member states has gone. In simple terms this means that if you live in the UK you can only pursue a claim for infringement of database right against another UK resident.

So I am not sure if this answers your question. You need to examine your own particular case to see if you think there was enough substantial investment for database right to apply, and if you think that may not be the case, does the case you are considering contain enough original thought and creativity to gain copyright protection. Once you have answered one or both of these in the positive, then you need to examine how much of the material concerned may have been copied or extracted, and whether this meets the relevant thresholds to amount to infringement in each case.

Re: Can a chart / table / spreadsheet of data be protected?

Posted: Sat Mar 13, 2021 4:45 pm
by battie83
Thanks for your time.

One of the charts is the 45 times table. Surely you can't copyright the 45 times table in a simple cell and column format whatever you title it?

Could the creator of this simple route card have a case for copyright infringement even if it was copied?

Or an Inventory List, would this be creative or original enough for copyright protection?

Could the above examples be considered creative or original works?

Above are only examples.

Re: Can a chart / table / spreadsheet of data be protected?

Posted: Sun Mar 14, 2021 8:32 am
by AndyJ
Hi battie

None of the three examples you gave would be subject to either copyright or database right, on the basis that they lack originality (for copyright to apply) or sufficient investment in time or resources in the case of database right. So I'm afraid Pete Hawkins is mistaken if he thinks his orienteering card is subject to copyright. However there's nothing in law to stop him claiming copyright.

Re: Can a chart / table / spreadsheet of data be protected?

Posted: Sun Mar 14, 2021 2:34 pm
by battie83
Thank you for the advise, it's appreciated.