Astrid Bovell on May 29th, 2011
on behalf of Anna Shadbolt – Information Management Services
Is there copyright – some say YES, some say NO … we prefer to say ‘ it depends!’
Why should you care? Well, researchers are being asked more and more to re-use research data, share it and make it available for Open Access.
Can you share ‘your data’ if someone else owns the copyright? Not without the copyright owner’s permission. But that of course depends on whether the data is even protected by copyright. So what exactly is research data?
Step 1: Determine if there is copyright in the data
Research data has been defined in the new University of Melbourne Policy for the Management of Research Data and Records (2011). Now I know this seems a bit long but I guess it just highlights how diverse ‘research data’ can be and consequently, the reason why there is more than one answer to the question.
“Data are facts, observations or experiences on which an argument, theory or test is based. Data may be numerical, descriptive or visual. Data may be raw or analysed, experimental or observational. Data includes: laboratory notebooks; field notebooks; primary research data (including research data in hardcopy or in computer readable form); questionnaires; audiotapes; videotapes; models; photographs; films; test responses. Research collections may include slides; artefacts; specimens; samples. Provenance information about the data might also be included: the how, when, where it was collected and with what (for example, instrument). The software code used to generate, annotate or analyse the data may also be included.
In the creative arts, data includes the creative artefacts of human expression that have emerged via text, visual arts, performing arts and music where both the expressive artefact and the process of creating that artefact are the objects of investigation. Data can be ephemeral and multifaceted and should therefore be thought of as the shifting and constantly re-evaluated set of emergent possibilities, materialities and ideas that find embodiment in the final artwork. For this mode of research, a durable record of the response to the data should be maintained, for example, as a visual diary, recording or journal (see research records).”
Copyright applies to some of these items – but not all. The ones that are easy to rule on are: text, images, recordings, and videos, in digital and analogue formats are generally protected by copyright under literary (scholarly) works. At Melbourne,
- scholarly works created by academic staff, honorary appointees or visitors are owned by them (Statute 14.1.2);
- scholarly works created by students are owned by them (Statute 14.1.3);
- the University has a non-exclusive licence to use scholarly works freely for teaching and research, subject to preservation of the rights of the author (Statute 14.1.4);
When researchers compile datasets and databases from multiple sources (with or without their own data) then it starts to get a bit more complicated. The Australian National Data Service (ANDS) provides some guidance here, stating that where research data is a compilation of datasets or a database that has ‘a required degree of originality’ in its production through the application of independent intellectual effort by author(s) then it is probably protected by copyright.
Step 2: Determine who owns the copyright in the data
The creator(s) of the data are generally considered the first copyright owner(s). However, the creator of scholarly works may alter the status of ownership by agreement giving these IP rights to the University of Melbourne or a third party.
To understand who owns copyright in data you need to know how the data was created, by whom, under what capacity and under what ownership agreements.
Step 3: How does copyright effect what I can do with my data?
For the sake of keeping this dialogue going, let’s say that YOU solely own the copyright to your data. This means you have legal rights over what can be done with that data and can restrict what others can do with it. It also means that you can enable access and use of your data by others providing this is permissible under any ethical and legal agreements on the data.
Again ANDS provides some useful information if you wish to deposit data into a repository or database, share it online, and allow others to use your data.
- You can give someone who wants to reproduce or use your data a non-exclusive licence to do so.
- You can publish your data and place it under a Creative Commons licence. These can be applied to individual data items, as well as data compilations and databases. Refer to ANDS Creative Commons & Data Guide for more details.
ANDS (Australian National Data Service) Resources:
- Data Re-use and Licensing Frameworks http://www.ands.org.au/publishing/licensing.html
- Copyright and Data: http://ands.org.au/guides/copyright-and-data-awareness.html
- Creative Commons and Data Guide: http://ands.org.au/guides/cc-and-data.html
OAK Law Project Reports, Guides and Publications are available at http://www.oaklaw.qut.edu.au/reports
- Practical Data Management: A Legal and Policy Guide (2008)
- Building the Infrastructure for Data Access and Reuse in Collaborative Research: An Analysis of the Legal Context (2007)
Or contact firstname.lastname@example.org