I'm looking at a large collection of images of graphs. I want to use the information in the images, not the images themselves. I've made a small program to extract this information, but I was wondering if it would be legal for me to use this information for commercial use? The images all have a copyright symbol on them, but I haven't been able to find it in a copyright database, so I doubt it's registered at the moment.

From a ton of googling, I would think that the information in the graphs is not subject to copyright, only the actual image of the graphs?

I think it's also possible that the specific collection of images could be copyrighted. What would happen if I simply removed some of them, so that it's now a different set?

The graphs on the images are specific measurements of specific things (like size, weight, etc.)

1 Answer 1


Copyright protection does not extend to abstract informational value (facts), it only protects the expression of an idea. A line graph of sales over time imparts certain information, and that specific expression of the information is protected, but the same information can be re-expressed as a bar chart, equation, table of numbers, or line graph in a different form. The bar chart is also protected as a separate expression (as a form of art), but a table of numbers is not, even though it may involve consider sweat of the brow to create the table of numbers. A particular graphic presentation of such numbers would, on the other hand, be protected expression.

Images can be bundled together and the bundling is protected. You cannot change that bundling, e.g. reorder or remove the images. You would be creating a derivative work, and that requires permission of the copyright owner.

  • So the collection of images is protected. Does this apply to any collection, or are there specific criteria for a collection to be copyrighted? In this case, the person responsible has measured anything sent to him, and posted the measurements online as images. Commented Dec 11, 2019 at 18:08
  • It is my understanding that in order to have a collection copyrighted, you would need to have some kind of creativity in the selection of information. The information is in this case simply represented as is, with no descriptor like "best measurements" or anything subjective. That said, there could in theory be an underlying method used to decide what when a specific measurement is included in the compilation, but this is not mentioned anywhere. Would this mean the specific collection is not copyrighted? Commented Dec 11, 2019 at 18:18
  • Creativity can also be found in the act of selecting vs. rejecting an image for inclusion ("curating"). It depends on the criteria for inclusion.
    – user6726
    Commented Dec 11, 2019 at 18:37
  • Does this method have to be explicitly mentioned? Commented Dec 11, 2019 at 19:10
  • No, they can keep it a secret and then use it against you in an infringement case. I don't see any safe way to modify and distribute a collection of images without permission.
    – user6726
    Commented Dec 11, 2019 at 21:04

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