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Research Data Management

Intellectual Property & Copyright

In general raw data on their own are considered discoverable "facts" and thus cannot be copyrighted. However, data that are gathered together in a unique and original way, such as databases, can be copyrighted or licensed. Data can be claimed as intellectual property even without a copyright. In practice, this means researchers cannot copyright data, but can require other researchers to give them credit for the data collection or creation.

Sharing data that you have produced or collected yourself
  • Data is not copyrightable. Particular expressions of data, such as a table in a book, can be copyrightable.
  • Promote sharing and unlimited use of your data by making it available under an appropriate license to ensure proper re-use and attribution. There are many licenses available that represent the range of rights for the creator and licensee of the data.
    • The Open Data Commons group has been developing legally binding tools to govern the use of data sets. Using a combination of copyright and contractual standards, they have created three standard licenses that one can use in conjunction with data projects.
    • Creative Commons License provides a standardized way to grant the public permission to use their creative work under copyright law.
Sharing data that you have collected from other sources
  • Licensed data can have restrictions in the way it can be used or shared downstream
  • When re-using existing data be sure to clarify ownership, obtain permissions if needed, and understand limits set by licenses
  • Be sure to provide appropriate attribution and citation
  • If licensing restricts sharing of the data, providing detailed information about where the data were obtained and how the data were analyzed can help with reproducibility