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About mindat.org copyrights

What is the copyright status?

Many people have asked about the copyright status of mindat.org, so this page attempts to explain what copyrights mindat.org is protected by, and why, and what you can and cannot do with the data in this site.

Different elements of this site are protected in different ways and for different reasons.

Program Code

The program code that was created to host and run the mindat.org database is the copyright of Jolyon Ralph. Some other portions (such as the Phorum messageboard) use open-source software.

Mineral and Location Data

Individual items of information (such as scientific data for a mineral, or the name and location for a mineral locality) are regarded as facts rather than a artistic or technical creation, and as such cannot be copyrighted. This means you are free to take individual pieces of information and use them in any way you wish - for example to copy a location name for your mineral label.

The database as a whole however is covered by database copyright (inside the European Union this is covered by directive 96/9/EC and others, there are similar laws in the US and other countries). This says that a database of information can be protected by copyright even if the individual component items of the database are primarily scientific facts - in the same way that individual words cannot be copyrighted, but when combined into a book then end result can be.

It's actually a little more complicated than this - there are individual items of information that are included within the data, primarily the descriptions of localities which are copyrightable elements themselves, therefore the database as a whole is the copyright of mindat.org, containing elements that are either scientific facts (not copyrighted) or text created by contributors (remains the copyright of the contributor).

Why copyright it at all? Why not make it freely available

Mindat.org relies on user contributions to improve the quality of our database. When a mistake is spotted it is corrected. Because we have one central 'master copy' and there are no other publically avaiable copies of this data, once a mistake is corrected, it is corrected for good. In the traditional world of print, if a mistake creeps into a book or a magazine, then it is there forever. If we allowed free use of our mindat.org database then we would see countless other copies of it available on the internet, on CD, and in print, each of which would be out of date almost the minute they are downloaded. We would no longer have a simple way to correct mistakes - once a mistake is copied and duplicated, we have lost control of it, and the mistake will get perpetuated forever. We need to protect the copyright of our database so we can protect the integrity of the database and the integrity of the mindat.org name.

A secondary concern is to prevent other people trying to take the database that our contributors have worked hard on and use it for their own agenda (eg for commercial means).

Of course, mindat.org remains free for you to use, and access to data on the site will remain free, and we have put protections in place to ensure that, see below.

I have a genuine reason that I'd like to use your data in my project, can I?

Please talk to us - we're happy to try to help people use our data in a responsible way. Note that we are unlikely to agree to something that allows significant portions of the database to be copied out of the site unless they are linked in such a way that updates to mistakes on mindat.org automatically update and change the copy that you are using, for example using an XML feed. We are also restricted in what we can and cannot allow permission for, see below.

In certain cases we will build interfaces for you to help you use our data. For example, the mineral list within the Wikipedia online encyclopedia is generated automatically from a list provided by mindat.org. This list of data is provided under the standard Wikipedia licence for use without any further restrictions.

Copyright of Photographs

Photographs, like other contributions, remain the copyright of the uploader and are labelled as such within the site. It is entirely up to the photographer to specify what terms of use they wish to attach to their images. Some photographers may specifically waive copyrights and allow their photographs to be freely used for any purpose. Others may allow non-commercial use of their images on request. In all cases, mindat.org are not involved with the copyright of these photographs and any such requests to use must go directly to the photographer.

Our own restrictions of use

Because of the complex copyright situation that the mindat.org database is covered with, we are even restricted in using the data ourselves for commercial purposes without arranging clearance with every contributor. This means that we cannot, for example, put mindat.org data into books, onto CDs, use the images to sell T-Shirts etc. without clearing each item of information and each photograph with contributors for this purpose. In some cases we may wish to do these sorts of things (selling T-shirts is something we are probably going to do), but we will make sure we have written permission for every image that we wish to use.

Can I download the data for personal use?

At the moment no - not just because of the copyright issues but also because the load on our servers for allowing such large downloads would be too much for us to deal with at the moment. However, we are looking at ways that data can be downloaded for personal use (this would not include items that could be regarded as copyrightable, such as the description fields and the photo library) and we would be happy to discuss with anyone interested in using such data ways to work together.

Is the database backed up?

Regular mindat.org visitors will remember that we had a nasty crash in early 2005 that lost about 3 weeks of data entries (some of which we were later able to automatically recover). This embarassing incident was caused because our remote backup service had stopped working in such a way that we were unaware it was 3 weeks out of date. This was combined with a catastrophic failure on the mindat.org server hard disk.

We went out and spent nearly $3000 on a new server with mirrored hard disks for redundancy, and have a second server dedicated for backup the other side of London. Every night the databases are synchronised between the two systems, and alerts are generated if this procedure fails (which it has done once or twice due to network problems).

What happens if mindat.org dissapears?

Mindat.org is the main outreach program for the Hudson Institute of Mineralogy (not-for-profit research, cultural and educational entity chartered by the Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York in 2003 and is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization) This will provide a vehicle for continuation of the mindat.org project if some members of the project are no longer able to continue on. The board of Hudson is committed to continuing this project and seeing that it is freely available on the internet.


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Mindat.org is an outreach project of the Hudson Institute of Mineralogy, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.
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