Managing Permissions to Share & Use Data
This section is intended for anyone that would like to improve the way that they share wildlife information. It will also help you meet the objectives of NBN Data Exchange Prinicple 4: A clear transfer of authority should be made when a biodiversity data resource is put together, to allow biodiversity managers to act on behalf of the biodiversity data owners.
Why do I need permission?
Permission is integral to any exchange of data, no matter how informal. Permission is based upon an understanding between someone offering data and someone receiving that data. The person offering data wants to understand what the recipient intends to do with their data. They will provide data if they are happy with this understanding and trust that it will not be breached. The continued supply of data is important to most data recipients. It is in their interest to build understanding and maintain the trust of those offering them data. This helps minimise the chance of disagreement which can result in the withdrawal of permission and further data no longer being offered. Understanding and trust are the foundation of good wildlife data exchange.
To manage permissions robustly it is good practice to formalise the exchange of data. Firstly data recipients should document and publish their intentions. This will help those offering data an opportunity to better understand how their data will be managed, used and shared with others. It also demonstrates a commitment to manage and use data as stated. The NBN model data sharing and use policy offers useful advice to help you produce your own. Secondly data recipients should make sure that anyone offering data to them have read and understood their intentions. It is good practice to make a record of the fact that they have done this and that they agree to their data being used and shared in this way. This provides more formal permission and there are various ways to do this. A number of different model NBN agreements and statements have been prepared to help you produce your own.
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What is the legal position?
In the eyes of the law biological records are protected by Intellectual Property Rights (IPR). IPR is a legal tool available to help creators formally control use of their work. The legislation is implemented under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. Written records are considered literary products, whereas records within a spreadsheet (paper or electronic) may be classed as databases. In both cases the creator of the biological record is awarded legal rights that can be used to control how the data are subsequently used. IPR can only be associated with documented works and do not cover spoken words, for example communications over the phone. However, it is good practice to treat any data received over the phone or face-to-face in a similar manner.
To use a wildlife record or collate it into a larger database of records, clear permission from the creator is required. Similarly, to use a database of wildlife records, clear permission is required from the creator of that database. If a recipient collates many individual records into a single database this is likely to be viewed as a new product. The database has added value to each component record and its creation is likely to have involved intellectual work. In the eyes of the law the data recipient is would hold the databases IPR (be the copyright holder). The recipient would need to make sure they had clear permission to use each component record in order to produce and use such a database.
A legal licence agreement can be used to grant a data recipient permission to use wildlife records offered to them. Taking legal advice the NBN Trust developed some model data exchange licence agreements for wildlife data. These can be used to formally set out how the data offered will be managed, used and shared with others and record agreement to this through signatures. A less formal statement was produced for use where signed agreements are difficult to use.
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Model Data Collation Licence Agreement
The NBN Model Data Collation Licence provides a generic example of a legal licence necessary to formally authorise an individual, group or organisation to collate and pass on wildlife information captured and created by another individual, group or organisation.
Data Custodianship Licence Agreement
The Data Custodianship Licence is an agreement between a dataset provider and a data custodian. The licence serves to give the custodian permission to hold, manage and incorporate a dataset into other collations and/or to maintain it and manage its availability to others on behalf of the dataset provider.
Permission Statement for Recorders
Derived from the more formal data collation licence, the Model Recording Form Statement is intended to provide a user friendly statement of intent regarding the use of data submitted. The statement can be used in many instances, for example included on recording forms or used as a standard reply to emailed records. The statement should clearly refer to and be supported by a published data sharing and use policy and a privacy statement.
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Permissions for the Gateway
When groups and organisations provide a copy of their data to the Gateway they do so under our Data Provider Agreement. This gives the NBN Trust permission to hold a copy of the dataset for the sole purpose of loading it onto the Gateway. The data provider administers and controls its availability using the online controls.
All visitors to and users of the Gateway are legally bound by the Gateway Terms & Conditions. These govern the way that people can use the NBN Gateway Service and any material, data and/or information made available to them through it. They protect the rights of the providers and creators of all material made available through the Gateway.
Addressing wildlife data you already hold
If you want to share and use existing or historic wildlife data and you don’t have clear permission don’t panic. Many groups and organisations that hold wildlife data are in this position. You need to take reasonable and proportionate steps to clarify permission from those that offered you the data. For example you would invest more time and effort into contacting a recording group that has provided a large number of records in recent years, than into contacting on individual that contributed ten records five years ago. NBN advice is set out in the guide to Clarifying Permission to Share and Use Existing Data.
Advice and support is also available from the NBN Data Access Officer.
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