3 Legal context

3.1 Intellectual property

Intellectual property rights protect certain categories of information and works that are the result of human intellectual endeavour. The main types of intellectual property rights are copyright, database rights, trade marks, designs and patents (further information on intellectual property rights in general can be found on the Intellectual Property Office website).

The UKGLF applies to information protected by copyright and database right.

3.2 Copyright and database right

Copyright is an intellectual property right protected by law (Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988) and applies automatically to:

  • literary (or written) works, including reports, correspondence, statistics, instruction manuals, computer programs, source code and software, newspaper articles and some types of database
  • artistic works, including paintings, engravings, photographs, sculptures, collages, architecture, technical drawings, diagrams, maps and logos
  • dramatic works, including dance or mime
  • musical works
  • layouts and typographical arrangements in published works
  • recordings of a work, including sound and film
  • broadcasts of a work

It governs the extent to which anyone may re-use, issue to the public, use or adapt the works, in whole or in substantial part, without permission from the copyright owner.

Database right is set out in legislation (The Copyright and Rights in Databases Regulations 1997) as another distinct form of intellectual property right. A database, which is defined as a collection of data or other material that is arranged in a systematic or methodical way so that the items are individually accessible, may be protected by copyright as a literary work if the selection or arrangement of the content is such as to constitute the author's own intellectual creation. Where this element of originality does not exist, a database may be protected by database right if there has, nonetheless, been a substantial investment in obtaining, verifying or presenting the contents of the database. This protection can be applied to both paper and electronic databases.

3.3 Ownership of copyright and database rights

Local government authorities and other non-Crown public sector bodies own the copyright and database right in the information they produce. Copyright and database rights may also be assigned or transferred to an individual or organisation by the original owner(s). 

In the case of central government and its agencies, where the agency is a Crown body, most of the information produced will be subject to Crown copyright and/or Crown database rights. Copyright and database right may also be assigned or transferred to the Crown by the original owner(s).

3.4 Moral rights

Moral rights (according to Chapter 4 of The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988) give the authors of literary, dramatic, musical and artistic work and film directors the right:

  • of attribution - to be identified as the author of the work or the director of the film
  • of integrity - to object to derogatory treatment that would be prejudicial to the honour or reputation of the author or director
  • not to have a work or film falsely attributed to them

Moral rights do not apply:

  • to computer programs
  • where ownership of a work orginally vested in an author's employer
  • where material is used in newspapers or magazines
  • reference works such as encyclopaedias or dictionaries

Moral rights last for as long as copyright lasts in the work, although the creator may waive his or her moral rights. Unlike copyright, moral rights cannot be sold or assigned.

3.5 Freedom of Information Acts and Environmental Information Regulations

All information has not been published or which is not accessible under information access legislation, including the Freedom of Information Acts or the Environmental Information Regulations, falls outside the scope of the UKGLF.

Rights of access to most public sector information are provided by the Freedom of Information Acts  and by the Environmental Information Regulations.  Provision of information under current access legislation does not mean that the recipient has an automatic right to re-use it, for example to publish it, or adapt it in some way. However, the Protection of Freedoms Act which amends s11 of the Freedom of Information Act contains provisions under which certain public sector datasets may be re-useable at the point of access by means of a specified licence. 

Most information supplied in response to an access request will be protected by copyright and permission to re-use it will be required. Statutory provisions for access and re-use complement each other but are, in most cases, separate and distinct.

3.6 Data Protection Act 1998

The Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) defines UK law on the processing of data on identifiable living people and protects personal data. Photographs of identifiable individuals could be considered to be personal data under DPA. The UKGLF does not authorise the re-use of any personal data.

3.7 The Re-use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2005

The Re-use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2005 (the PSI Regulations) establish principles and rules for public sector bodies when making public sector information available for re-use in response to a request from a potential re-user. They also provide a complaints process for re-users.

Further information, including a best practice guide, The Re-use of Public Sector Information: A Guide to the Regulations and Best Practice, and pages dedicated to public sector information policy and practice can be found on our Public sector information directives and regulations pages of our website.

Under the PSI Regulations, re-use of information occurs where information is used for a purpose other than the original purpose for which it was created by a public sector body, within its public task.

Re-use often involves the combination of information from different sources to create new products and services. For instance, in addition to publishing road maps Government also publishes information on the location of cycling accidents. When these pieces of information are combined they enable the planning of safer routes around dangerous areas.

Re-use helps to deliver three key government priorities: public sector transparency; increased public involvement in achieving government objectives; and increased economic growth.

3.8 The INSPIRE Regulations 2009

The INSPIRE Regulations 2009 require public authorities that are responsible for spatial (geographical) information to make their spatial information accessible to other public bodies across Europe to support effective decision making and policy development. This may also involve combining spatial information with other types of information in the development of new products and services. The INSPIRE Regulations also require public authorities to make their information accesssible to members of the public. In some cases public authorities are obliged to make their spatial information available in a form which is capable of being re-used and the terms and conditions which can be imposed on re-use by public authorities and members of the public may be limited.

The UK Location Council endorsed the UKGLF as the licensing framework for the use of spatial information covered by the INSPIRE Regulations.