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Data Visualization

A Guide for Creating Great Vissualizations

What is Copyright?

Copyright is a legal right, grounded in the United States Constitution, that gives the owner of copyright in a work the exclusive right to:

  • Reproduce (make copies of ) the work; and
  • Modify or prepare derivative works based on the work. (Examples of derivative works include translations, transforming printed works into musicals or films, rearrangements of scores, and any other recast, transformation or adaptation of a work); and
  • Distribute the work in any format by sale, publication, license, rental, or for free; and
  • Publicly perform or display the work; and
  • Authorize others to exercise some or all of those rights

Data Copyright

Data itself is not copyrightable.

For instance, demographic counts, weather measurements, phone numbers, chemical structures, currency values, facts about individuals and events, and similar types of factual information may be used without permission.


Bakers Yeast Chemical Structure  weather data  


However, when a creator acts to select, arrange, coordinate, or otherwise creatively transform, organize or analyze data, then the creative elements can be protected by copyright.

While the individual pieces of data used to create a visualization can not be copyrighted, the visualization itself can be protected. Simply displaying the data in a simple table or chart generally does not constitute creative transformation, whereas unique design and display elements may meet the threshold for original work.

Protecting Your Data Visualizations

Several types of licenses are available to data visualization creators to communicate how they would like to be acknowledged and/or how other can use their work. 

Creative Commons Licenses