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Topic Title: Data migration legalities
Topic Summary: When moving from a propritory system to open source, are we allowed to automate the transfer of the data?
Created On: 10 February 2010 10:45 PM
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 10 February 2010 10:45 PM
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I work for an educational establishment who are using a proprietary e-learning environment and are planning to switch to an open source one. These systems store files and other teaching resources so they are accessible to the staff and students online. It is a requirement of this project to migrate the data out of the proprietary applications database so that it can then be inserted into the new open source system. This could be done by hand but would take a small team of data inputters many months to do. Looking at the database schema I can see that, although difficult, it would be possible for us to write a program to automatically do the migration. My question is, are we legally allowed to do that? We would only be accessing the database and would not be reading any of the applications code to work out what item in the database was. Many thanks in advance, John

Edited: 10 February 2010 at 10:54 PM by jennew
 12 February 2010 10:18 AM
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But if the bought in application does not have a way to export the data, is it legal to go routing around in its database?
 12 February 2010 11:41 AM
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If you simply move the data from one place to another, like you would a book from one shelf to another you will be OK. However if your program copies the data and then moves it then you require the owners permission else you breach copyright in the UK.

Probably the database also has a patent. Unless it provides you with some kind of facility/interface/protocol to enable you to transfer data then I would suspect you need to check the patent before you start trying to work out how it handles/organises its data. Looking on a surface level (i.e., general user level) is acceptable but once you start to get into the inner workings you are in risky territory.

 12 February 2010 01:16 PM
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Your University/College should have a Data Protection Officer or someone of similar title. You should contact them in the first instance for advice and seek official permission for transferring data across to another system. If any issues should arise in the future, your back is covered. I include the following sites for your information as follows:
 13 June 2010 12:47 AM
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I agree its worth checking the Data Protection legislation.
I would have thought that the data is the property of whoever is responsible for creating it until such time as they give up that ownership to another party. I cant see any situation in which the owner of database engine could claim any rights to data stored using their product. Unix, for instance was created yo be a subscriber database.
Were you to make copies of the database engine code then you would be in breach of copyright and you may find that the database vendor is not keen to share information about their data structure.

Chris Matheson MInstMC
 23 July 2010 10:19 AM
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This applies to the UK and most EU countries (I think)

Data protection is about just that, protecting certain types of data. This means that the certain types of data you keep will not be released and kept securely. There are lots of other rules and laws about what you can do with the particular types of data you keep!

The data you collected and entered belongs to you. If you bought a leger book made by RedBook and wrote some figures in, they don't belong to RedBook. If you copied their layout and released the leger book, passing it off as your own, you'd be infringing copyright. Getting a licence from RedBook to reproduce their design makes it legal again.

The schema of the database, any triggers, database objects, code they contain are under copyright protection. These are the lines and layout of the leger book! The data is not protected by copright and the vendor must provide you with, and cannot prevent you from obtaining, data you have entered. This does not mean you can "read" and hence copy the database schema ie. be provided with access to all the database objects.

1 - Thus the fact you can read the data you require does not infringe Data Protection (debate now ensues).
2 - The fact you can export the data from their system (...means they don't know what they are doing..) fulfills the vendors requirement to allow access to your data.
3 - YOU MUST not copy any of their structures or other database objects.

I suggest, though this is long winded: You write a report (or whatever) to export your data to hard disk. Only use these exported files to import from. As I've said, it's your data but not your database!

Ian Lowson MIET

Do or do not, there is no try!
 26 July 2010 04:52 PM
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I agree with Ian.
The copying of your own data from such a system should not be a problem if you are not copying the data schema, or objects from the original system.
Most licences for software require that you do not decompile the software and understanding the data schema may come under this protection, however if the database is a standard format, the system can be accessed without breaking some sort of decryption, and you can identify the data, then I can't see how the software company could claim to own the data any more than Microsoft could claim to own all the files on your PC because they are using the FAT32 file system.
The data protection issues are a bit of a red herring for the question. But it is worth mentioning to be careful with where you put the data whilst you are converting it. Try not to carry it round on a laptop or data-stick or email the files home.
Good luck, I've done this type of work many times before transferring data to and from account systems and you get some interesting format problems to fix.
Best Regards
Nick Leonard

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