Copyright for data sharing and fair dealing

When data are shared or archived, the original copyright owner retains the copyright.

A data archive cannot archive data unless all rights holders are identified and give their permission for the data to be shared. Secondary users need to obtain copyright clearance before data can be reproduced. However, exceptions exist under the fair dealing concept.

Fair dealing

Under the fair dealing concept, data can be copied for non-commercial teaching or research purposes, private study, criticism or review without infringing copyright, provided that the owner of the work is sufficiently acknowledged.

This only applies to literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work, not to films or recordings. An acknowledgement should give credit to the data source used, the data distributor and the copyright holder.

Sharing and licensing

If a researcher wishes to deposit research data with us, all the right holders need to be identified and the necessary copyright permissions granted for data to be archived and shared.

The UK Data Archive acts as a ‘publisher’ of data and does not have any rights in the data collections it distributes. The researcher(s) or data creator(s) keep the copyright over archived data and licence us to process and distribute the data.

Assigning copyright correctly is especially important where data collections have been created from a variety of sources, for example, when data have been derived from existing data that were bought or ‘lent’ by other researchers.

We require written permission from all copyright owners to archive and provide access to these materials. The researcher will need to contact the rights holder and come to an agreement whereby the terms and conditions of reproduction can be laid down in an agreement or licence.

Creative Commons licences

When publishing research data, consider how you want your data to be reused by other researchers. You can specify this by licensing the data to match the intended uses.

Creative Commons (CC) licences allow creators to easily communicate the rights, which they wish to keep, and the rights, which they wish to waive in order for other people to make reuse of their intellectual properties.

They were designed for generic digital content such as text, images and film. For informational databases, other licences are more appropriate, such as the Open Data Commons Licence or the Open Government Licence.

Various CC licences exist:

  • Attribution CC BY
  • Attribution-ShareAlike CC BY-SA
  • Attribution-No Derivatives CC BY-ND
  • Attribution-NonCommercial CC BY-NC
  • Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike CC BY-NC-SA
  • Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives CC BY-NC-ND

For a practical illustration, follow the link to case studies highlighting where copyright problems might arise.