The Alberta Court of Appeal has upheld oil and gas operators’ right to copy seismic data submitted to regulators by the companies that have collected it.
In its decision on April 28, the court upheld an earlier ruling from the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench, confirming that copyright existed in the data but that the existing regulatory regime governing federal lands in the north and on the east coast creates an exception to copyright protection. The decision affirmed the oil and gas industry’s general belief that the data becomes available to the public as soon as the statutory privilege expires.
Under the regulatory regime, companies like Geophysical Service Incorporated (GSI), the plaintiff in the case, must submit seismic data to various federal and provincial regulators and other governmental entities in return for permission to operate on government land. The data remains confidential for five years, after which the regulatory regime provides that the public can access the information. In practice, governments have kept non-exclusive data confidential for 10 years.
GSI claimed its consent was required to the use of the seismic data even following the expiration of the confidentiality period. The company sought more than $2 billion in damages.
The defendants, including a wide array of industry players and government entities, responded that copyright did not exist in the data and that, in any event, the regulatory regime was a complete answer to the copyright infringement claims.

Financial Post