Other rights

Other rights to be aware of beyond copyright

Beyond copright, there are other rights that may be granted to a creator of a work. There are also a number of pieces of legislation that give people the right to request access to recorded information held by public sector organisations, or be informed whether information is held.

Moral rights

Besides copyright, the creator of a work also holds moral rights, which cannot be transferred. Moral rights give the creator the right to be identified as the author of a work. This right must be asserted by the author in writing.

Moral rights typically last the same length of time as copyright. Unlike copyright they cannot be sold to another party but can be waived by the author. They can also be bequeathed upon an author’s death.

Publication right

Publication right offers rights equivalent to copyright to a person who publishes previously unpublished material that has already fallen out of copyright.

This right rewards the creative effort employed in editing another research work. Creating and publishing a database based on unpublished historical source material, which is not in copyright, will give the creator a publication right.

Database rights

If information is structured in a database, the structure acquires a database right, alongside the copyright in the content of the database. Legally, a database is a collection of independent works arranged in a systematic or methodical way.

A database may be protected by both copyright and database right. For a database right to apply, the database must be the result of substantial intellectual investment in obtaining, verifying or presenting the content in an original manner. Simply entering facts into a spreadsheet does not count as substantial effort. The database right is an automatic right and protects databases against the unauthorised extraction and reuse of the contents.

Database rights are protected for 15 years from the date of creation or publication. For some complex databases, the structure itself can be categorised as a literary work (even if its contents are of a visual nature) and attract 70 years’ copyright similar to other literary material.

Freedom of Information (FOI)

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOI) was established to increase transparency in the public sector. It gives people the right to request access to recorded information held by public sector organisations or be informed whether information is held. Research data can be requested under the FOI Act, but copyright to such data stays with the original researcher.

There are exceptions to the Act, such as:

  • Personal data cannot be requested (unless about the individual requesting access).
  • Information that is accessible by other means. For example, via a website.
  • Information intended for future publication.
  • Information that is subject to a confidentiality agreement, such as in a signed consent form or sensitive data held under restricted access by a data archive.

Jisc have developed a detailed list of FOI questions and answers related to research data.

Environmental Information Regulations 2004

Like the FOI Act, the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) legislation gives the public access rights to environmental information held by a public authority, including universities, in response to requests, in this case for ‘environmental’ information.

Freedom of access does not imply free access. There are circumstances under which requests may or must be refused, for example if the data contain personal information.

Find more information on Environmental Information Regulations 2004.

For a practical illustration, follow the link to case studies highlighting where copyright problems might arise.