What is Orphan Data in a Geophysical Context

In North America, the vast majority of seismic data is proprietary, meaning that it is intellectual property protected by copyright laws. Generally, people in the seismic industry are familiar with the difference between propriety data verses licensed or trade data and use data in a manner that is appropriate.   A significantly less used term is orphan data or according to APEGA, data of unconfirmed origin.    

APEGA defines Data of Unconfirmed Origin as: Data of unconfirmed origin is geophysical data that has no documentation proving its origin and/or ownership. The lack of financial documentation or supporting metafile information does not enable the status of the data to be determined, i.e., whether the data is proprietary, partner proprietary or licensed. Such data should be treated as confidential information. The data should not be sold, traded or even shown to anyone outside the company. Even if a party was willing to sign a confidentiality agreement, the data should not be shared externally in any manner since the company cannot confirm that it is entitled to share it. Efforts should be made to continue seeking information that might establish ownership status and rights of use. Some corporations elect to remove such data from their corporate archives after a diligent but unsuccessful effort to obtain information regarding data ownership. Care must be taken with some datasets as provincial or federal regulations may prevent destruction of such data, requiring operators to maintain a copy of the data in Canada.

Many companies today have evolved from companies which originated years or even decades ago.   Employees change positions and company name changes are commonplace. If you research your seismic database, could you provide paperwork on the origin of your data? A reasonable assumption is that you might have some orphan data. Assuming other companies are like yours, and that the ownership of seismic data has changed hands many times, it could be an onerous task to try to: a) find agreements tied to the data and/or b) determine who the current owner of the data is. If you have the paperwork, then you are in great shape. If you cannot find the paperwork, consider tracking down the paperwork, or getting new permission from the current data owner and convey the license to the current company.  

Know what data you have in your possession and how you got it.    It is important.