Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Research Data Management: Planning: Intellectual Property (IP) and Licensing

Brings together a variety of resources to aid researchers with data management planning.

Why license research data?

As the push for open data grows, the terms and conditions for (re)use of datasets needs to be clearly defined. This can be achieved by licensing your data.  The Digital Curation Center (DCC) guide on licensing your Research Data states,"Merely releasing data without making clear their terms of use can be somewhat counter-productive, though. The default legal position on how data may be used in any given context is hard to untangle, not least because different jurisdictions apply different standards of creativity, skill, labour and expense when judging whether copyright or similar rights pertain. The situation is complicated by the fact that different aspects of a database – field values (i.e. the data themselves), field names, the structure and data model for the database, data entry interfaces, visualisations and reports derived from the data – may be treated quite differently. 

There are different types of licenses available.  See the boxes below for more information.

Open Data Commons licensing

  1. Public Domain Dedication and License (PDDL): This dedicates the database and its content to the public domain, free for everyone to use as they see fit.
  2. Attribution License (ODC-By): Users are free to use the database and its content in new and different ways, provided they provide attribution to the source of the data and/or the database.
  3. Open Database License (ODC-ODbL): ODbL stipulates that any subsequent use of the database must provide attribution, an unrestricted version of the new product must always be accessible, and any new products made using ODbL material must be distributed using the same terms. It is the most restrictive of all ODC licenses.

More information about Open Data Commons licenses here.

Creative Commons licensing

  1. CC0 (aka "CC Zero"): To waive copyright and/or database rights, use the CC0 mark. It effectively places the database and data into the public domain. It is the functional equivalent of an ODC PDDL license.
  2. Public Domain mark (PDM): Use to mark works that are in the public domain, and for which there are no known copyright or database restrictions. It is possible to flag factual data as PDM in a database, for example, in order to make it clear it is free to use.

More information about Creative Commons licenses here.

Additional Resources

Following content courtesy of Cornell University RDMSG LibGuide "Introduction to intellectual property rights in data management" licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Sharing Research Data and Intellectual Property Law: A Primer. Carroll, Michael W. 2015. An introduction to the various kinds of property rights that can be associated with research data.

Open Licenses. Project Open Data. The US Federal Government guide to open licenses and dedications.

CC0 (+BY). Cohen, Dan. 2013. A call for using CC0 with data, tempered by an ethical obligation to attribute.

Data Citation Developments. Kratz, John. 2013/ An update on efforts to standardize data attribution requirements.

How to License Research Data. Ball, Alex. 2012. Written with British law in mind, but it has a good discussion of the pros and cons of the ODC licenses.

Licensing Open Data: A Practical Guide. Korn, Naomi and Oppenheim, Charles. 2011. Another guide written with UK law in mind, but with a helpful comparison of CC and ODC licensing options.

Open Data. Wikipedia.

Why we can't use the same open licensing approach for databases as we do for content and software. Hatcher, Jordan S.