I popped round to an NHS dentist a few months ago – and they stuck my head on one of these contraptions.
The Kodak 8000C takes a panoramic X-ray, giving a superior view of your teeth. Nifty. The dentist showed me where my wisdom teeth were and I was impressed with how high resolution the image was.
Afterwards, I asked the dentist if I could have a copy of the scan. She wasn’t terribly sure. She thought that she had to charge me for it. Then wondered if there was a data protection problem. Then started talking about copyright and the licence that they had signed with the machine’s manufacturer.
As I’m disinclined to argue with anyone wielding a syringe and bone-saw, I asked if I could take a photo of the screen. That was acceptable to her.
(I have a higher resolution image, but feel weird about posting it online.)
So – who owns the copyright on medical images? Some points to consider:
- The NHS is free at the point of use – but I pay a small fee for dentistry. So am I the customer?
- The dentist and assistant posed me correctly, but left the room and let the machine take my photo. Who created the image?
- I didn’t sign anything about copyright.
- Could a manufacturer claim copyright of images created with their tool? What about the data they derive from analysing the image?
- Can a patient be trusted not to do anything stupid with their medical data – like post it on their blog?
As medical technology gets more sophisticated – and more Internet connected – this will become an increasing problem.
Comments from Tweeps:
Had 2 examples in last months - NHS xray of fractured finger told couldn't have image and couldn't take picture (due to social media abuse & cloning). Private MRI of knee - was told could buy the master raw images on DVD or take a masked pic on my phone of portion of the image— ianhf (@ianhf) November 7, 2018
Completely different, but I have the originals of one of my cats x-rays. The vet said I own them, but they keep them for me because they can store them safely if I need them again. I had to sign a waiver to say I’d give them back if needed. Weird!— nicky (@knotnicky) November 7, 2018
@edent and when I saw the image pop up as a result of my sharing the link to your dental x-ray, I felt uncomfortable at sharing it... (I don't think I'd share that sort of thing again. Personal comfort line crossed...)— Tony Hirst (@psychemedia) November 7, 2018
My take: the radiographer acquires copyright (or their employer; not a lot of freelance radiographers around). The manufacturer does not unless assigned by contract in their T&Cs, which would be weird. You as the subject have no IP rights unless the IP owner licenses them to you.— Owen Boswarva (@owenboswarva) November 7, 2018
But that's just the IP aspects of course. The x-ray contains special category personal data about you, and DP law restricts how that data can be shared and used. (Possibly fewer restrictions now you're published it, as that may affect the "special category" status of the data.)— Owen Boswarva (@owenboswarva) November 7, 2018
Is there any copyright in it at all? There wouldn't be in a straight photocopy - that's different to a photograph because of the skill of the photographer in framing etc. Is an x-ray more like a photo or a photocopy? I bet the latter.— Howard Davies (@howdavies) November 8, 2018