JISC Web2 Rights
JISC Legal

There are three main areas of law affecting data management:

In addition, for data stored in the cloud, the USA PATRIOT Act may be relevant.


Copyright grants the copyright holder rights relating to the use of the copyright material, in addition certain moral rights are granted to the creator of the materials. Copyright is automatically granted when new creative material is produced - i.e. the material must be more than a simple collection of other data. Copyright is a separate item of property to the original work and the sale of the original work does not automatically pass copyright on to the new owner of that work (e.g. selling a score or painting does not automatically transfer the copyright). The particular rights and the duration of the copyright period are affected by the type of material.

For audio and digital music research, rights of particular interest relate to:
  • musical compositions and audio recordings - a CD can be covered by three separate copyrights, one for the design of the packaging, one for the sound recording on the CD and one for the musical composition recorded
  • typographical arrangements - these cover not only papers (which are also covered as literary works) but also the layout of spreadsheets and design of databases.

Pay The Piper has a very good post explaining music copyright, which includes:

If you compose a completely original piece of music then it is your own property - you own the copyright, in other words.

Arranging existing music is fraught with difficulties. To put it very simply (and this is indeed a gross simplification) until the composer has been dead for seventy years his music is copyright and you may not make a written arrangement of it without permission.

Lots more in the post though, so it's worth reading if you want to know more about music copyright!

It is important to note that copyright does not cover the ideas expressed within a work, only the particular form that that work has been captured in. The data within a spreadsheet is not copyright, only the particular layout of that data.

We note that simple anthologies - e.g. a collection of "complete works" or works created during a certain period - do not get copyright on the content, although the typographical layout may be copyright.

Fair dealing / fair use regulations allow specific uses of copies from original copyright materials (NB: not copies of copies!) without breaching copyright. However, fair use does not apply to sound recordings, films and broadcasts. There are JISC Guidelines for Fair Dealing in an Electronic Environment and specific clauses in the legislation on use in education in training or for personal study.

The legislation:

Moral Rights

The author of a work always retains two moral rights regarding the content:
  • The right to be identified as the author
  • The right to object to derogatory use of the material.

Database Rights

In the UK, if a "substantial investment" is made in "obtaining, verifying or presenting" the contents of a database then the database will be protected by database rights. The owner of those rights will be the person that "takes the initiative" in the creation of the database - that "person" being the employer if the database is made by an employee in the course of his work. Database rights are infringed by extraction or re-utilisation of a substantial part of the database.

Fair dealing rules exist for database rights - users of databases are allowed to extract data for non-commercial use in research and teaching (with acknowledgment of the source).

Database rights last for 15 years from the creation/publication of the database and may be renewed if the database changes substantially.

More information at: The act itself is at:

More Information

UK university materials regarding copyright and intellectual property: Further sources of information:

Some articles of interest from outside the UK

Australian IP law blog posts re. media and copyright. Includes: US articles from Public Domain Sherpa Tutorial on Copyright and the Public Domain
  • What makes a derivative work
    derivative must use enough of the prior work that the average person would conclude that it had been based on or adapted from the prior work
  • Compilations
    compilations are (c) if they show minimal creativity (e.g. not just all works by someone or by date)
  • Copyright Renewal
    Many works did not have copyright renewed and therefore went out of copyright and into the public domain in the US - estimated 15% of works had copyright renewed. Renewals will appear in the online US copyright database for works from 1950-1963,

CHM Super Sound (a South Pacific record company) state that :

A melodic phrase of a song is in copyright. The lyrics are in copyright. Chord progressions in a music composition however, are not copyright material.

University of Washington Copyright Connection

WIPO Understanding Copyright and Related Rights

Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works

Chord Progressions and Copyright:

Data Protection

Data protection protects the rights of individuals over their personal information. In particular, The Data Protection Act covers the processing of data relating to identifiable living individuals. The core of the Data Protection Act is a set of data protection principles. These state that personal data shall be processed fairly and lawfully and shall not be processed unless the subject gave their consent except under specific conditions (for sensitive personal data such as marital status, ethnic origin or health information there are further restrictions). Fair and lawful processing requires that the data was not obtained by deception and is kept confidential and that the data subject was given information about who will process the data and for what purpose. In addition, personal data should be:
  • obtained only for specified purposes, and should not be used for anything else;
  • adequate, relevant and not excessive in relation to the purposes (i.e. only the data that is required);
  • accurate and, where necessary, kept up to date;
  • kept no longer than is necessary for the purposes;
  • processed in accordance with the rights of the data subjects under the Act;
  • protected from:
    • unauthorised or unlawful processing
    • and loss, destruction; or damage
  • shall not be transferred outside the European Economic Area without similar protection being provided.

In general, data subjects have a right to access to data held about them. The onus to provide this data is on QMUL as the data controller, and, as such, QMUL should be able to find any personal data relating to identifiable living individuals which is held within the college.

However, there is a specific exemption, for research which is not targeted at particular individuals and will not cause distress or damage to a data subject, which allows data to be processed for other purposes and held indefinitely. Data subjects also have no immediate right of access for personal data where the data is processed for research purposes and the results do not identify the data subjects.

JISC state:

Data controllers are required by the Act to process personal data only where they have a clear purpose for doing so, and then only as necessitated by that purpose. A data controller’s purpose for any personal data processing operation should thus be clearly set out in advance of the processing, and should be readily demonstrable to data subjects.

They also note:
  • that the majority of the Data Protection principles do apply to research data;
  • that there should be a review to ensure compliance with Data Protection requirements;
  • that a mechanism should be in place for subjects to object to the processing if they believe it would cause them damage or distress;
  • and that particular care must still be taken when processing involves sensitive data.

As data protection applies to identifiable living individuals, it is generally best practice to anonymise any data relating to individuals as soon as possible, discarding any information that allows individuals to be identified. In order to comply with the Data Protection Act, a suitable consent form should be provided allowing the use of data relating to identifiable living individuals in research. Alternatively, such consent may be recorded in interviews. Within QMUL, research which involves human participants and data relating to them should be approved by the college Research Ethics Committee - the fast-track ethics review should be sufficient for most C4DM research.

Further information: The Act:

Freedom Of Information

The Freedom Of Information Act (FoI) gives people the right to request data held by public bodies. It does not matter where the data originated, only who holds it. Copyright relating to information supplied under FoI requests remains unchanged - and provides you with protection from other people (mis)using your data.

The Freedom of Information Act states that research data:
  • can be held indefinitely;
  • is not subject to FoI requests unless individuals are identified in published research;
  • can be used for other research uses;
  • and may be exempt from FoI requests on grounds of (imminent) future publication or commercial interest.

Note that this means that if a researcher from another institution published research identifying individuals and you use their data, then individuals will have the right to request the data from QMUL.

Additionally, if data will be published through the college's normal publication scheme, then there is no onus on the college to provide the data under FoI requests - publishing data removes any additional requirements for FoI.

Further information: The Act:


The 2001 USA PATRIOT Act provides the US government with the right to search/seize data held by any US company or its subsidiaries. It does not matter where the data is physically stored, if it is held by a US company (Microsoft, Apple, Google, DropBox, Amazon...) then the US government can seize the data. However, in order to do so it is necessary for the US government to obtain a court order for the purpose of an anti-terrorism investigation - they can't just idly decide to grab your data.

Note that these rights are not terribly different to the rights of other countries to access data (see Hogan Lovells' white paper).

Further information: The Act:
  • 2001 "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism" (USA PATRIOT) Act (Link).