This question is very similar to Licensing Issues of Methods for software and Copyright of technical standards however, the answers are, likely quite rightly unclear as it may depend on a specific case. With this in mind I've asked the question more specifically to my requirements and expand on it a little.

I want to develop a computer program that can undertake engineering calculations. In the first instance it would be used internally at the company I work for, but if possible, I would also like to sell it to third parties. Many of the equations will be based on British Standards that are owned and copyrighted by the BSI Group. I would therefore need to:

  1. Copy and use the equations
  2. Copy and use their constants (some are publicly available such as constant for gravity, but others are based on experimental outputs, which may or may not have been developed for the British Standard document)
  3. Copy and use their constant and variable descriptions

For guidance I can refer back to the original documentation.

I have been in touch with the BSI Group and they have advised that for internal use, My proposals are acceptable on the basis that the documents are licensed to the company and not an individual.

I have not been offered an answer form them whether this permission can extend to selling the software to third parties.

Grateful for thoughts.


I eventually got a response as follows which echos the accepted answer:

You can reproduce factual data such as equations, numerical values and formulas. However you cannot reproduce a table that includes the data. In other words you must extract it and present it in your own work. Text, figures, tables and diagrams would require our permission.

1 Answer 1


I'm assuming that you are in the UK, as you are talking about the British Standards Institue.

In general the truth cannot be copyrighted but an expression of that truth can be, provided that it is creative or original to at least some extent.

In this case the equations and constants you want to use are descriptions of scientific truths. If you translate them into another form (e.g. a computer program) then you are not copying the creative bit (the layout and arrangement of those equations and explanatory text), so you are not violating the copyright.


I should also have said for (3) that their descriptions of the constants and variables will be copyright. You would have to avoid copying their words. However given that these are going to be terse descriptions of facts your words can still be pretty similar without infringing on copyright, because there are only so many ways of describing the acceleration due to gravity, or whatever. Take a look at some alternative references to see what words they use.

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