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Can you copyright a XML schema?

cspurgeon's Photo
Posted Apr 07 2011 02:55 PM

Copyright question...

I want to adopt the XML schema that a 3rd party company uses in one of their APIs for a web app I'm building. It'll all be my actual data that's in my app's XML, I'm just using this other company's schema to organize it.

Right now neither XML feeds nor the DTD of this other company have any sort of copyright notice in them. My questions are 1) is it possible to copyright a XML schema and 2) if it is possible am I potentially liable for using their schema to move my data around?

Chris Spurgeon

chris - at - spurgeonworld - dot - com

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2 Replies

  cothomps's Photo
Posted Apr 13 2011 09:03 AM

The short answer is 'yes' - nearly any creative work can be copyrighted if the copyright is claimed - most often by attaching a copyright notice to the distributed document. (In this case, the XSD file.)

If no copyright notice is attached, it might be nearly impossible for any creator to legally claim that copyright - so you might be perfectly fine with using it as a basis for your own schema. (Please note my disclaimer: I'm not a lawyer, so please don't use this post as legal advice!)
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  clmx's Photo
Posted May 04 2011 10:22 AM

Usual disclaimers -- I am not a lawyer, nothing in this post should be construed as legal advice, consult your corporate counsel, etc. -- but while an XSD may be copyrighted (and under US law *is* even without registration), the actual use of an XML schema is better covered by patent law as a business method. At a minimum, I would not recommend using a third-party XSD in your software unless it has been specifically licensed in such a way to allow it.

However, there are also (limited) protections for "clean room" interoperability projects, which even in the event of other barriers may satisfy your needs; for example, you could study the XSD in question and write up a technical description of it, which another developer then would use to write a new XSD without reference to the covered material. This method is commonly used for industrial applications, and might be equally applicable to your situation.

As I said, consult an IP lawyer should you have concerns.