Copyright, ethics and use of data

Research data must be as open as possible and as closed as necessary.

Already in the start-up phase of your project, you need to consider various copyright issues. As a main rule, research data should be as open as possible and as closed as necessary. However, copyright plays an important part in determining how research data may be used. If you do not consider copyright issues early on in your project, you may face significant difficulties later on.

Copyright and licenses

Only the person who holds the respective rights to data may publish them and/or permit others to use them.  Usually, it is the researcher who has generated or collected the data who holds the rights.
PilRead more
(DTU Login)

Many data repositories require you to select a usage license (e.g. Creative Commons] when uploading data sets. A usage license is a legal document which can only be issued by the person who holds the copyright and which describes how other people may use data. A license does not transfer the copyright. As an example, the organization Creative Commons has issued a number of licenses that enable the copyright holder to specify how others people may use data.

In general, research data should be distributed in the least restrictive way and under a Creative Commons CC0 or CC-BY 4.0. license. Thus, the European Commission suggests “Public domain” (CC0) or “common-use, attribution only” (CC-BY 4.0) for data generated in projects funded through the Horizon2020 program. Creative Commons licenses do not apply to databases and software but corresponding licenses exist for these types of data.

You are encouraged to make your research data freely accessible, except when this conflicts with contractual legal obligations or current regulations on e.g. ethical, confidentiality or privacy matters or intellectual property rights. If your research has been funded by agencies or organizations that require you to share your data, you are naturally obligated to do so. If you work with commercial partners, on the other hand, you might need to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) or confidentiality agreement in order to protect sensitive information and prevent disclosure that could damage the patentability of inventions.

In relation to some forms of research, researchers must request permission or report their research projects to the authorities – e.g. projects that involve testing on humans (e.g. clinical trials of medical products and equipment), laboratory animals and research that involves genetically modified organisms.

Resuse of data
Reuse of data – your own as well as others’ – can save many resources. If useful data is already available, there is no need to spend time and money collecting new data.

You will need to consider a number of things before you make use of already existing data. When using data from a third party you need to clarify ownership – including copyright and licenses – before you use, save, change or publish them.

Learn more about ...