Copyright and your research

Data can mean:

  • numbers
  • figures
  • tables
  • diagrams
  • stories
  • poems
  • music
  • film content
  • soil samples

Data protected by copyright depends on what the data is, and how it is represented.

Raw data or information may not be covered by copyright, but that data represented in an original or unique table, diagram or database can be protected by copyright.

If the order of data is important, like a collection of poems, or uniquely ordered lines of computer code, this order may be protected by copyright also.

If the data is a creative work, like a poem, script, story, musical work, film or computer program, then copyright likely exists.

Using and sharing data

You can generally reproduce raw data without requiring permission, however you need to cite your source.

Make sure any expression of data you create, like a graph, table or infographic, is unique and significantly different from the original.

If you can't express the data differently, you may require permission from the owner or publisher of the data for permission to use their expression.

Keep in mind there may be privacy or other legal issues, like patents pending, commercial or in-confidence contracts. that may prevent you from publishing or sharing data.

Who owns copyright in data?

The copyright owner is usually the person or organisation that created it, or the person or organisation that commissioned the creation of the data. Read more on who owns copyright.

Licensing data

You may be encouraged to share or license your research data.

If you are employed or have received funding to conduct your research, you may not be the copyright owner. You will need to consult with the copyright owner before you apply a licence to the data.

Your research or funding contract may specify the type of licence you need to publish your data with, or may outline how you are required to share your data with the public.

Protect your work

There are a variety of methods that you can use to protect your work, such as:

  • licensing and copyright information
  • permissions information
  • watermarking
  • metadata
  • Technological Protection Measures

Copyright does not protect ideas or information. It only protects the expression of those ideas and information. It is not a copyright infringement for someone to use the same idea as you.

For infringement to occur:

  • copyright must subsist in your work
  • they must be reproducing a substantial amount of your work
  • they must be doing so without your permission
  • they must be breaking their local copyright laws

People in other countries may be able to do more with your work than you can do with someone else's work.

Allegations of infringement and false allegations are taken very seriously. Investigate a circumstance thoroughly before making an allegation.