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Copyright and Intellectual Property Rights

Sharing data that you produced/collected yourself:

  • Data is not copyrightable (yet a particular expression of data can be, such as a chart or table in a book)
  • Data can be licensed; some data providers apply licenses that limit how the data can be used, such as to protect the privacy of participants in a study or guide downstream uses of the data (e.g., requiring attribution or forbidding for-profit use)
  • If you want to promote sharing and unlimited use of your data, you can make your data available under a Creative Commons CC0 Declaration to make this explicit.

Sharing data that you have collected from other sources:

  • You may or may not have the rights to do so, depending upon whether that data were accessed under a license with terms of use.
  • Most databases to which the UC Libraries subscribe are licensed and prohibit redistribution of data outside of UC. For more information on terms of use for databases licensed by the Libraries, contact UC3.

If you are uncertain as to your rights to disseminate data, UC researchers can consult with your campus Office of General Council. Note: Laws about data vary outside the U.S.

For a general discussion about publishing your data, applicable to many disciplines, see the ICPSR Guide to Social Science Data Preparation and Archiving (pdf).

Confidendiality (Ethical Concerns)

It is vital to maintain the confidentiality of research subjects for reasons of ethics and to ensure the continuing participation in research. Researchers need to understand and manage potential tensions between ethical requirements and other requirements for long-term and permanent retention and for the deposit of data in a repository or archive for the purposes of validating the research and furthering knowledge.

Researchers who wish to ethically share sensitive and confidential data can consider strategies like:

  • gaining informed consent that includes consent for data sharing (e.g. deposit in a repository or archive)
  • protecting privacy through anonymising data
  • considering controlling access to the data (e.g. through embargoes or access/licensing terms and conditions)

Credit to the University of Virginia's Scientific Data Consulting Group and the MIT Libraries for permission to use and adapt their data management planning pages, and to members of the UC3 community. Please send us any comments about these guidelines.

Commons License

Last updated: March 14, 2014
Document owner: Perry Willett