Against Monopoly

defending the right to innovate

Monopoly corrupts. Absolute monopoly corrupts absolutely.

Copyright Notice: We don't think much of copyright, so you can do what you want with the content on this blog. Of course we are hungry for publicity, so we would be pleased if you avoided plagiarism and gave us credit for what we have written. We encourage you not to impose copyright restrictions on your "derivative" works, but we won't try to stop you. For the legally or statist minded, you can consider yourself subject to a Creative Commons Attribution License.


The Quest To Copyright (And Control) Raw Scientific Data

The Guardian newspaper reports:

In a landmark ruling, the UK Information Commissioner's Office has ruled that Queen's University Belfast must hand over data obtained during 40 years of research into 7,000 years of Irish tree rings to a City banker and part-time climate analyst, Doug Keenan.

This week, the Belfast ecologist who collected most of the data, Professor Mike Baillie, described the ruling as "a staggering injustice ... We are the ones who trudged miles over bogs and fields carrying chain saws. We prepared the samples and - using quite a lot of expertise and judgment - we measured the ring patterns. Each ring pattern therefore has strong claims to be our copyright. Now, for the price of a stamp, Keenan feels he is entitled to be given all this data."

Read the whole thing here:



Your title is a weird implication. The only reason that the data collected by the scientist in question should be made public is that the school is a public school. If the scientist was an individual, or worked for a company, or even a private school, then no one has a right to the data, whether is it scientific, of how many rolls of toilet paper the guy uses, or whatever. In spite of certain people claiming information cannot be "owned," if I collect data (information) on the size of every tree in Central Park on my own time, guess what? I own that data and I will do what I like with the data, including not sharing it with you.

While you point out that ONE of the arguments the University made was copyright, they made many, many others. The copyright argument was merely one of convenience. They just did not want to cough up the data and were trying every tactic they could to stop release of the data. Your bogus headline could easily have read...

The Quest To Keep (and Control) Raw Scientific Data Trade Secret

The Quest To Hide Raw Scientific Data by Failing to Complete Analysis of the Data

The Quest To Control Raw Scientific Data by Making Such Data Confusing

...along with everything else the University tried. Nice way to cherry pick a single tactic.

The point is that, among other things, it's a violation of basic scientific principles here. A university gathered data. Basic scientific principles say that this data should be published and made generally available to scientists. But this data happens to pertain to a matter that's gotten rather politicized and now bogus monopoly-creating laws are being used to stifle research in that area. That's bad!
Although I agree that the data should be made public in this case, this hasn't got anything to do with copyright.

Most people believe that copyright creates ownership in intellectual work, but actually, copyright suspends ownership of intellectual works. Copyright grants control of a copy to the copyright holder, regardless of who owns the copy.

Without copyright, the owner of an intellectual work controls it, regardless of whether he is the author or not.

Since the university is both owner and author the state of copyright law is completely irrelevant.

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