Licensing your data
Licensing is recommended when publishing research data. Licences allow you to share your data while stating clearly what others can do with the data. If you deposit your data with a data repository you may be asked to choose from a range of licences.
Which licence should I choose?
Which licence should I choose?
Public domain dedication
Facts cannot be copyrighted, so if your dataset only contains facts or dates you might consider releasing the data under a public domain declaration such as the Creative Commons Zero Public Domain Dedication (CCO). A CCO dedication allows the copyright holder to waive copyright ownership of a work and enables others to use the work without restriction. Attribution of authorship is not a requirement of reuse under the dedication, but the usual expectations of attribution and citation for academic scholarship should still be followed.
Creative Commons Licenses
Releasing your data under a CCO public waiver is the most effective option effective for encouraging others to share and reuse your data in support of open science. However, if you do not wish to waive copyright or your dataset contains media rich content such as text, images or film you should consider applying a Creative Commons licence. Creative Commons licenses allow the copyright holder to retain copyright ownership of their works while allowing others to use the work under certain conditions specified by the chosen licence.
There are six main licence types (listed below). The most permissive license - and therefore the license most suited for enabling data sharing and reuse - is the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY Attribution).
- CC-BY Attribution
Users can distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon a work, even commercially, as long as they give credit to the original creator of the work.
- CC-SA Share-Alike
Users can remix, tweak, and build upon a work even for commercial purposes, as long as they credit the original creator and license any new creations under identical terms.
- CC BY-ND Attribution-NoDerivs
Users can copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format for any purpose, even commercially, as long as it is passed along unchanged and credit is given to the original creator.
- CC BY-NC Attribution-NonCommercial
Users can copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format and remix, transform, and build upon the material but any new works must be non-commercial and give credit to the original creator.
- CC BY-NC-SA Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike
Users can copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format and remix, transform, and build upon the material but any new works must be non-commercial, give credit to the original creator and be licensed under identical terms.
- CC BY-NC-ND Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs
This licence is the most restrictive. Users can copy and redistribute the material, but they must credit the original creator and cannot change the work in any way or use it commercially.
Popular open source licenses for software include:
- MIT License – permits any person to use, copy, modify, merge, publish distribute, sublicense, and/or sell copies of the software as long as a copy of the license notification is included with any reuse
- GNU General Public License - users can copy, distribute, and modify the software as long as any modifications are also licensed under the GPL
- Apache license 2.0 - allows users to use the software for any purpose, to distribute it, to modify it, and to distribute modified versions of the software as long as a copy of the license is redistributed with any modified software
Additional information is available from the Software Sustainability Institute and Open Source Initiative.
Open source licenses for databases
Open Data Commons
Open Data Commons
Open Data Commons licences are similar to Creative Commons licences but are intended specifically for use with databases:
- Open Data Commons Attribution License (ODC-By)
The Open Data Commons Attribution License (ODC-By) allows users to freely share, modify, and use a database providing that they include a notice to the original database.
- Open Data Commons Open Database License (ODC-ODbL)
As above but with a share-alike condition. The ODC-ODbL allows users to freely share, modify, and use a database providing that they include a notice to the original database and share any derivative database under an identical licence
- Open Data Commons Public Domain Dedication and Licence (PDDL)
The PDDL places the data(base) in the public domain and allows users to copy, modify and create new works from the data(base) without restrictions.
- The Creative Commons Zero Public Domain Dedication (CC0) can also be applied to databases
Tools to help you choose a licence
The tools below can help you choose the most appropriate licence for your data/software.