Re: [Rd] R datasets ownership(copyright) and license

From: Spencer Graves <>
Date: Tue, 03 Apr 2012 18:58:05 -0700

On 4/3/2012 3:55 PM, Hadley Wickham wrote:
> On Tue, Apr 3, 2012 at 5:46 PM, Yaroslav Halchenko<> wrote:

>> ;-)  Let's check where factual ends and fictional/personal/etc starts
>> and how easy to tell.
>> Are survey data asking for answers to specifically crafted original
>> questions (i.e. not just age/race/etc) factual? e.g.
>> \title{The Chatterjee--Price Attitude Data}
>> \description{
>>   From a survey of the clerical employees of a large financial
>>   organization, the data are aggregated from the questionnaires of the
>>   approximately 35 employees for each of 30 (randomly selected)
>>   departments.  The numbers give the percent proportion of favourable
>>   responses to seven questions in each department.}
>> \usage{attitude}

> I don't see how their could be any confusion here - it is a fact
> whether or not someone made a favourable response to a question. I
> agree that there might be murky areas, but I don't think this is one.

ABUSE OF POWER IN COPYRIGHT LAW        Lessig (2004) Free Culture "documents how (US) copyright power has expanded substantially since 1974 in five critical dimensions:

[Quote from Wikipedia, "Free Culture (book)"; " <>"]

       As noted earlier, the major media conglomerates have successfully used the ambiguities they got written into copyright law to block potential competitors and stifle creativity through the credible threats of lawsuits.

LIMITS ON ABUSE OF POWER IN COPYRIGHT LAW        One copyright claim the industry lost (as noted in "Free Culture") was an attempt to collect royalties from Girl Scouts for songs sung around campfires. They didn't lose that case in a courtroom -- the law still allows them to sue in such cases: They lost in the court of public opinion.

       For data sets in R, I think we need to look at the copyrights claimed in the package: If the copyright says, e.g., GNU GPL, we should not worry about it much. And I agree with Hadley that we should not worry much about the datasets published in R packages.

       I'm not an attorney, but I've been told many times that you can copyright expression but not ideas -- and certainly not facts. Thus, you can copyright the format of a table of physical constants but not the constants themselves nor the relationship described by the organization of that table.

       However, the major media industry has demonstrated a capacity to sue when they feel their hegemony on public opinion is threatened. Our primary defense is the defense of Gandhi: Refusing to remain silent -- e.g., people making salt in defiance of law saying they couldn't or (more recently) Girl Scouts signing in public and refusing to pay royalties.

       Best Wishes,

p.s. The industry got the above extensions to copyright law by piously claiming they were needed " To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries", as it says in Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the US Constitution ( The claims of the industry as it pertains to academic research journals is completely bogus, because I have never received a dime for any of the technical papers I've written, even though I've been required to assign copyrights to some company, whose sole function in the age of the Internet is to prevent people from reading my work without paying the copyright holder: This is an obstacle to "the progress of science and the useful arts."

> Hadley

Spencer Graves, PE, PhD
President and Chief Technology Officer
Structure Inspection and Monitoring, Inc.
751 Emerson Ct.
San Josť, CA 95126
ph:  408-655-4567

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