Research Data Management (RDM) and licences

If your research has been funded, it is likely that your funder will have a data management policy which will state how they want the data to be shared.   Check your funder’s policy here.

In general the majority of funders encourage data sharing but others may impose restrictions.  Funders which encourage sharing do not always specify that a Creative Commons licence or any other type of licence should be attached to the data.  For example, the STFC states that the ‘data management plan should specify which data are to be deposited in a repository, where and for how long, with appropriate justification’.  It may be worth checking if the data management plan should also include how the data is licensed for reuse.

The Wellcome Trust has a policy on intellectual property and patenting in their advice on Developing a data management sharing plan’.  This advises that ‘Delays or restrictions on data sharing may be appropriate to gain intellectual property protection or to further development of a technology for public benefit’.  In this instance you may need to hold certain data back from being licensed.  You may also want to consult the University’s Enterprise Office before making any data freely available with a licence.

This brings us onto licences.

The CC0 1.0 Universal (Public Domain Dedication) waves all rights to copyright.  I would advise against this licence on two grounds.  Firstly the person/s who have created the research data do not need to be acknowledged in terms of copyright law as they have waived all rights.  This could lead to the data not being cited or being incorrectly cited and attributed to another person.  Although poor citation is bad academic practice it is not illegal if the work is in the public domain.  Secondly, if the data is not owned or acknowledged to a particular person/s then it may lose its validity and robustness.  This is particularly pertinent if a researcher is referring to the data from a secondary resource with an incorrect citation or no citation.

The Creative Commons ‘CC BY’ licence version 3.0, is the most generous of the six CC licences available.  This would be a much better CC licence to use than the CC1.0 Universal as it requires that the data is acknowledged and would to some extent avoid the problems outlined above.  The reason I say ‘to some extent’ is because you would again need to rely on the data being properly referenced, however, in this case you would have copyright law on your side.  You may also want to consider the commercial element of this licence as it allows users to make commercial use of the work.   If this is not appropriate, then you could instead consider attaching a CC BY –NC licence to selected data.  The CC BY-NC just removes the commercial element from the licence but is otherwise fairly generous in its terms.

The Open Data Commons Licences are generally less well known than the CC licences however, they have been specifically designed for data/databases and will suit your needs better.  This is because the licences allow you to distinguish between the data and the database in which the data is collected in.  This may be useful if you want to distinguish between the rights in the database (database right) and the individual copyright/IP in the data.

There are three licences available. The  ODC Open Database Licence only applies to the database and not the specific data contained within it.  This could be useful if you want the database containing the data to have a specific licence and then separately licence the data which is contained within it.   There are two licences available for the separate data, these include the Public Domain Dedication Licence and the ODC Attribution Licence.   For reasons outlined above I would probably avoid the Public Domain Dedication Licence as there is no legal requirement on users to reference the work other than good academic practice.  The ODC Attribution Licence would be the best licence to use overall.  It allows users to share data, produce works from it and  adapt it whilst specifying that the data must be attributed as outlined by the licence.

With the use of any licence you may need to think about how and if you want to police its use.  For example you may want to periodically check that others are not exploiting the data and are abiding by the terms of the attached licence.  There are disadvantages to this as it can be time consuming and any breaches of the licence would need to be followed up.

For more information please contact the University Copyright Advisor:;

01509 222351.

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