More specifically I want to use statistics from an MIT website for my own website: http://livingwage.mit.edu/states/05

I can't find any license information or anything about statistics, but am I free to use all the information from that table since they got the data presumably from a public source? I know on the footer of the website there's a copyright sign, but not sure if it applies to data like this.

2 Answers 2


Is it legal to use statistics off a copyright website?


A piece of information per se is not protected by copyright. Only the particular expression of that information could be. This is the idea–expression dichotomy.

The underlying data shown in a database is not protected by copyright, since that data is only an idea. You are therefore free to adapt a specific statistic (such as the typical annual salary for management in Arkansas being $75,061) to your own purposes. But the database as a whole may be protected by a copyright, since the selection of what information to include in that compilation is a particular expression of the underlying ideas (that is, the facts).

In the US, the test for whether copyright subsists in a compilation is whether the particular grouping contains at least a minimal degree of creativity. If the database was formed simply by throwing together whatever information was available, this probably isn't enough for copyright, since there was no creativity exercised. But if the information has been carefully curated to show something in particular, this is likely enough.

It is impossible to say whether the database you refer to has copyright attached to it, since it's just not possible to know on its face: it turns at least in part on how the database was created. It is irrelevant whether the underlying information came from a public source or not: it only matters how the information was selected and arranged to form the compilation.

To your specific question, you have asked whether you can use all the information from the table. That seems that you are trying to copy the compilation as a whole. In such a case, if there were copyright in the compilation (which arises in part from how it was created), then you would be infringing that copyright by using it. Thus the answer is you can use it if there's no copyright in it. Which is, I fear, entirely unhelpful.


Facts are not subject to copyright.

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