Skip to Main Content

Research Data Management

Learn how to better manage your research team's data throughout all phases of the research lifecycle.

1.3 Copyright & Intellectual Property - Page Contents

Copyright & Intellectual Property

Knowing your intellectual property rights are important to the success of any data management program.  Things like who owns the data and how the data might be used are pertinent concerns to any researcher.  It is essential that all legal, professional, and ethical duties to the provider of the data are satisfied when you use a dataset for your research.  Have a look at WSU's Faculty Manual (see "Copyright" section) for information about ownership of university research.

Data & Copyright

Is Data Copyrightable?

Data that is factual is not copyrightable; in fact, data that is factual lacks copyright protection under American law.  However, not all data is in the public domain.  A particular expression/presentation of the data that is represented in the form of a chart or table in a publication for example is protected under US copyright. 

Back to Page Contents


License Definition:

 A license specifically sets out the terms on which you are able to make both the database and the data content free to use by anyone. 

Licenses protect how a dataset user might or might not be able to use your data in a research project.  There are two licensing groups that have developed legal tools to help manage the use of your datasets: ODC and CC.

(Open Data Commons) - Has 3 types of standard licenses which can be used in combination with your data project and they are:

  • Public Domain Dedication and License (ODC PDDL) – data content and databases are put into the public domain, free for any person to use without restrictions like attribution.
  • Attribution License (ODC-By) – data content and databases are used by users in various ways who provide attribution to the dataset’s source.
  • Open Database License (ODC-ODbL) -  this is the most restrictive of licenses.  All data content and database usage requires attribution and any new products developed with this license must be made available/distributed under this same license terms.

(Creative Commons) - Has a collection of standardized licenses of which can be applied to select data and databases.  Three of the most common CC licenses are:

  • CC0 (or CC “Zero”) – data owners waive their copyright or data rights and as a result, datasets are placed in the public domain free of Copyright logoany restrictions like attribution.  This is the ODC PDDL equivalent.
  • Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) – datasets are protected in this license based on copyright ownership of the underlying work.  Users may modify and use the work, even commercially, as long as the original work is attributed to you.  This is different from ODC-By which applies to datasets/works that are not protected by copyright like factual work.
  • Public Domain Mark (PDM) – it is applied to works that are in the public domain and have no known copyright or data restrictions; e.g. facts in a database could be classified as PDM in order to make clear that it is free to use.


Back to Page Contents

WSU Libraries, PO Box 645610, Washington State University, Pullman WA 99164-5610, 509-335-9671, Contact Us