Request for clarification of copyright and re-use on CIFs from Elsevier/CCDC

==== copy of letter to CCDC requesting clarification on copyright ====
(Sorry to use a generic address but I am not sure who is the person to contact about permissions).
We have a systematic program of carrying out quantum mechanics calculations on organic crystal structures which uses the original CIFs as deposited by authors of peer-reviewed publications. In some cases the CIFs are openly accessible and openly re-usable from the publisher’s website (e.g. Acta Cryst., RSC). In other cases (e.g. Elsevier) the CIFs have been deposited at CCDC and are requestable without charge. and we have started to do this (see
I would be grateful if you could clarify the copyright and re-use position of the retrieved files. Both your website and the actual file carry a notice which suggests that the files may be copyrighted and there are also apparently restrictions on re-use. To quote:

Conditions of Use of CIFs provided from the CCDC CIF archive Individual CIF data sets are provided freely by the CCDC on the understanding that they are used for bona fide research purposes only. They may contain copyright material of the CCDC or of third parties, and may not be copied or further disseminated in any form, whether machine-readable or not, except for the purpose of generating routine backup copies on your local computer system.
If you agree to the foregoing terms and conditions then please click on the “Accept” button below. If you do not accept the foregoing terms and conditions you should not click on the “Accept” button but should click on the “Do NOT accept” button below or the “back” button on your browser.

Elsevier (and other major publishers) have confirmed that these files are data and therefore not copyrightable.
You will appreciate that an adherence to formal wording of this licence could prevent proper scientific work being carried out. For example we routinely make all our raw data Openly available so that people can repeat our work (and have deposited 250,000 molecular structures and calculations in our Institutional Repository). Could you please confirm that the CIFs are not, in fact, copyrighted and that we have the right to re-use them in an Open manner and to redistribute them. We will provide complete provenance so that the authors’ identities (and where possible the article alongside which they were published) will be made clear.
Many thanks
NOTE: This letter is published to my blog:
( probably as ) where we have been able to clarify licences on several publisher’s web sites. I would like to publish your reply in the same way (so please indicate if there is any material which should not be made public).
Peter Murray-Rust
Unilever Centre for Molecular Sciences Informatics
University of Cambridge,
Lensfield Road, Cambridge CB2 1EW, UK

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