Copyright Protection for Agricultural and Farm Business Owners

January 21, 2015 by Holiday W. Banta, Partner | Thomas A. Walsh, Partner
Ice Miller can help innovators overcome critical challenges to grow successful agribusinesses. Learn more about the unique business and legal challenges facing food and agricultural innovators and how to protect and grow that innovation in our 2015 Agribusiness Guide. An excerpt follows:

A copyright, the term originally referring to a “right to copy” the works of an author, protects the preserved, original expression of an idea. In the context of data, this means that copyright potentially protects the selection and arrangement of data fixed in a tangible form (for example, magnetic media, handwritten notes, etc.), although the underlying facts themselves are not protected by copyright. Copyright law provides a bundle of exclusive rights to the owner of a copyright. These include the exclusive right to control copying, create adaptations or derivative works, and distribute copies. Anyone who violates any of these exclusive rights of the copyright owner is an infringer.
For a producer or agricultural business owner, valuable data is created every day from information that is collected, compiled, and categorized on the farm or in a laboratory or manufacturing facility. For example, the following may all be copyrightable:
  1. An operator manual created by a farmer to teach employees how to operate a combine to maximize fuel efficiency;
  2. A collection of soil agronomy readings, fertilizer usage, yield data, water usage, and temperature readings compiled in a database and accessed through an original screen interface; and
  3. Photographs or videos of livestock handling procedures.
If the producer, agricultural business or their employees creates the writing, photo, video, or software, the producer or business owns the copyright. If the producer or business hires an independent contractor to develop the manual, take the photo, or write the software, then assignment documents must be in place to ensure that the agricultural business will own the copyright. It is important to remember that merely paying someone to perform these tasks does not automatically result in ownership of the copyrighted work.

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