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I'm struggling to phrase this correctly on google, so haven't found the relevant links to answer my question.

The company I work for uses a third party provider to organise work, appointments, job details etc. Legally, all the data we input belongs to us, and this is confirmed in their terms and conditions.

I have recently requested that a copy of all the data be sent to me, of which I wasn't specific of the format. As we have legal ownership of the data, we have a right to request a copy at any time, and as far as I'm aware, they cannot refuse to provide that data - however the format they provide it to us must be in a useable format (even if it is technically a ballache to deal with). They were quite evasive about the topic, as if the idea that this could happen had never occured to them before, and it was clear that there was no procedure in place to do what had been requested.

eg. Jobs produce certificates in pdf form from data that was input, which is clearly stored in the database somewhere, but as long as they provide the PDF they fulfill the obligation to provide the data - aka a ballache to reprocess, but still useable.

When I made the request, they mentioned that an hourly rate would be charged to supply the data as it would "take alot of work" despite the fact that this is something they should be able to do anyway.

Are they actually allowed to charge for something they should be providing anyway? The Company I work for and the third party are both UK companies.

  • I don't know about the UK, but in most jurisdictions, "ownership" of data isn't the same legal concept as, say, ownership of a bicycle. There are various notions of "ownership" such as copyright, patents, trade secrets, etc, but as far as I know, none of them impose an obligation on those who possess the data to deliver it to you upon demand. – Nate Eldredge Aug 17 '16 at 16:40
  • As a silly example, I have here a hardcover edition of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Nobody disputes that the data within is "owned" by J.K. Rowling (in the sense that she holds the copyright). But if she knocks on my door tomorrow and demands that I let her read it (or make her a copy , etc), I'm not obliged to do so. So, I would guess that your provider is only required to give you a copy of the data if your contract with them says that they must. Likewise, any requirements as to the format of the data would be governed by the contract. – Nate Eldredge Aug 17 '16 at 16:41
  • @NateEldredge All i have to go on atm is the "terms of use" publicly avaliable on their website, so it might be prudent for me to review the full terms of the contract to see what it says? – Takarii Aug 17 '16 at 20:10
  • Yes, for sure you should read the contract. If it doesn't say they have an obligation to do what you are talking about, then my guess is they don't have any such obligation, and all you can do is negotiate with them to convince (£££) them to do it for you voluntarily. As always, though, if you want to know for sure, ask your company's legal counsel. – Nate Eldredge Aug 17 '16 at 21:32
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Ownership of something does not necessarily entitle you to unencumbered access to and use of it.

Ownership of data, particularly, carries different notions than ownership of physical items. Typically the rights you hold with data ownership relate to the modification, copying, and transmission of the data.

As for the charges being levied for the production of the data, it would come down to whether it was contemplated in your agreement. If not, there may be no obligation for them to provide this to you free of charge.

And the charges, especially if they are reasonable, are unlikely to be overturned by a court - you are able to negotiate the terms of this service, and they can offer it at a rate. The offer to produce the data, if such activities are not contemplated in your original agreement, is not bound by it - they can offer anything they like.

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