ResourceEye Services Inc v Atrum Coal Groundhog Inc, 2015 BCSC 821

Key Principle:

Survey data cannot be copyrighted. Only the documents on which they are presented may be protected by copyright. As a general rule factual information cannot be owned. Once released, it may be freely used.


The Situation:

You run a geological survey company. A mining company has contracted you to assess a prospective mining site. Upon completing the survey, you deliver a survey report to the company, alongside an invoice. Unfortunately, the company goes bankrupt and is unable to pay you for the report. On the basis of the survey data outlined in your report, another mining company swoops in and develops the site. Can you bring a claim against this second mining company for capitalizing off the information in your report without payment?

The Conclusion:

Unfortunately not. The law is reluctant to regard information as property. Absent patent or copyright, only documents presenting information may be owned. Furthermore, survey data cannot be copyrighted. While you may have recourse against the first mining company for breach of contract, you have no claim against the second company, which ultimately capitalized from the information in your re