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From Stephen King's latest bestseller to the launch codes for the U.S. nuclear arsenal, virtually all information is capable of being owned or controlled by someone. When developing Lotus Notes databases, in addition to what information to include, it is necessary to determine who owns or has the right to control the information to be included. In doing so, copyright and security and access issues must be considered.

Information will fall into two general categories:

Different copyright and security and access considerations will apply as follows:

  • Information Owned by Others
  • Information Developed and Owned by NAR

1. Information owned by others.

This information must be broken down between (1) information within the public domain, including virtually all works produced by government or whose copyright has expired (generally more than 75 years old); (2) information that is copyright protected; and (3) information in our possession but held pursuant to an agreement to keep it confidential.

Information that has not been copyrighted can be input into the database and made accessible to any user. This information is said to be in the public domain, since no one does or can own it. A business decision must then be made as to user accessibility and allowed use. For example, some information may only be of value to NAR staff so access would be internal only. Other information may have value to both NAR staff and Executive Officers so access would be both internal and external to the EO group. Then a decision must be made as to whether use is restricted or unrestricted (i.e., read only; read, download, print, etc.)

Information owned by others which is copyright protected can not be input into the database without first obtaining written permission to use and disseminate the information in a specific manner. In cases where inputting of such information is desired, you should request such permission from the copyright owner and, if it is granted, you should see Legal Affairs for assistance in obtaining a written release confirming the owner's permission to use the information. You should know that it is possible to take public domain information (e.g., census data) and by rearranging, reformatting and/or re-ordering it create a copyrightable new compilation of facts. When considering whether to include something obtained from a third party, particularly if you had to pay for it, the safest assumption is that it is copyrighted, particularly, but not necessarily, if the source bears a copyright notice. Again, Legal Affairs can assist in determining the status of questionable items.

You will generally know when something is in NAR's possession under the terms of a confidentiality agreement or some other agreement limiting our use of the information. This type of information can only be used in the manner permitted in the agreement between the owner and NAR. Typically, you will have had to sign a document or the information is provided in a sealed package which must be broken to accept and use the information. Either one of these acts can bind NAR to the terms established by the information provider. Legal Affairs can assist you in understanding the limitations imposed or negotiating new terms if you talk to us prior to signing anything or breaking the seal on the information being provided.


2. Information owned by NAR.

This information must be broken down between (1) information that is not proprietary or confidential and contains no copyright; (2) information that is proprietary or confidential and not copyrighted; and (3) copyright protected information.

It is important to remember that information developed/owned by NAR is copyrightable and a business decision needs to be made whether or not to copyright it.

Information that is not proprietary or confidential and contains no copyright can be made accessible to any user. A business decision must then be made as to user accessibility (i.e., internal only, such as Human Resource's policies; internal and external, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act compliance kit, etc.). Then a decision must be made as restricted or unrestricted use (i.e., read only, read, download, print, etc.)

Information that is proprietary or confidential and not copyrighted probably warrants limited access if included in a Lotus Notes database. Additionally, its use would presumably be restricted (see MIS for assistance in establishing the appropriate accessibility groups and type of use).

Finally, careful consideration should be given to the accessibility of copyright protected information. If NAR has copyrighted a publication, product, etc., it is to protect NAR's ownership rights. A NAR copyrighted item included in a Lotus Notes database should include the appropriate copyright notice regardless of its distribution unless a business decision has been made to give up all rights to the materials and forego the protections provided by the copyright laws. Where copyright protected documents are to be accessible on the system, such documents should be clearly labeled in such a way as to inform users of the applicable limitations on their use.