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Licenses for research data

The legal framework should be taken into account at the beginning of a research project - this includes, for example, copyright and related rights. In this article, you can learn more about German copyright in relation to research data and Creative Commons (CC) licenses. As of version 4.0, these are also suitable for research data.

Copyright and research data

Copyright protects the rights of creators of works. German copyright protection applies to works of literature, art and science that meet certain conditions. Protected works may not be distributed or modified without the consent of the authors. Copyright therefore restricts the free availability of research results. Generally, research data are not protected by copyright law if they are pure representations of facts. Copyright only protects personal intellectual creations or if a substantial investment was necessary to collect the data. Research data collection can involve substantial costs, but according to § 87a UrhG these costs  are not considered in this regard and research data are therefore not protected by copyright. [1] However, this should be reviewed for each case, for example if the data is available in different processing stages. If the copyright status of your data is unclear, you should contact legal professionals at your institution.

Licenses

To ensure reusability of your research data, you should consider granting free licenses. Licenses are standard contracts that allow all users of research data to perform certain actions. Licenses allow data providers to tie the reuse of published research data to certain conditions and to present these conditions in a comprehensible manner. Free licences grant users extensive rights, such as the dissemination of research data. The granting of free licences is aimed at the increased reuse of research data and thus promotes collaboration and the transparency of research results. They are therefore an important tool to meet the increasing demands for the availability of research data from publicly funded research projects. In RADAR, data providers can grant licenses for datasets in order to define the terms of use. The license is part of the descriptive metadata of a dataset.

Choosing a license

Before choosing a license you should make sure that...

  • ...the right holders of the research data are clearly identified and they have the right to make the data publicly accessible or accessible to a certain group of users.
  • ...the (potential) commercial value of the data was considered. For example, research data that have already been published can generally no longer be used in the context of a patent application.
  • ... both the interests of potential reusers and the data providers are considered.

CC-Licenses

In RADAR you can choose from a number of licenses, such as the Creative Commons(CC) licenses. Creative Commons licenses offer many advantages to right holders and potential users of research data:

  • They respect the copyright.
  • They are known worldwide, their validity is generally recognised by German courts and can therefore also be enforced in court.
  • They are continuously updated and adapted to the respective legal situation.
  • The rights of use are presented concise and in a comprehensible manner.

CC licenses are modular and can therefore be adapted to different requirements. Rights holders can choose from a total of 7 licenses, which are composed of the following 4 modules:

Icon Abbreviation Description
BY attribution: the rights holders of the work must be named. Changes must be identified.
NC non-commercial: the work may only be used in a non-commercial context.
ND no derivatives: changes to the work may not be published.
SA share alike: derivatives of the work must be distributed under the same conditions of use.

By combining the modules, rights holders can specify terms of use precisely.

Indication Abbreviation Name Description
CC0 Creative Commons Zero With this license, the data provider waives the copyrights for the data licensed (as far as this is possible under German copyright law) or grants full rights of use. This means that works under a CC0 license can be copied, modified and distributed without any conditions. In case of reuse of data with this public domain dedication, there is no obligation to name the creator of the dataset .
CC BY attribution This license allows third parties to copy and distribute the original dataset as well as derivatives. It also allows commercial use of the dataset. The only requirement is the attribution of the author of the original. This license allows for maximum distribution and use of the licensed material.
CC BY-SA attribution - share alike This license allows third parties to copy and distribute the original dataset as well as derivatives. It also allows commercial use of the dataset. The only requirements are the attribution of the author of the original and the distribution of derivative works under the same conditions. All derivative works  based on it must be licensed under the same usage terms.
CC BY-NC attribution - non-commercial This license allows third parties to copy and distribute the original dataset as well as derivatives. The work can only be used in a non-commercial context and the author of the original must be named.
CC BY-NC-SA attribution - non-commercial - share alike This license allows third parties to copy and distribute the original dataset as well as derivatives. The work can only be used in a non-commercial context and the author of the original must be named. All derivative works  based on it must be licensed under the same usage terms.
CC BY-ND attribution - no derivatives This license allows third parties to copy and distribute the original dataset. It also allows commercial use of the dataset. The author of the original must be named. Derivatives of the work can not be published. 
CC BY-NC-ND attribution - non-commercial - no derivatives This license allows third parties to copy and distribute the original dataset. The author of the original must be named. Commercial use is prohibited. Derivatives of the work can not be published. 
  no free license copyright All rights reserved.

Depending on the combination of modules, licenses can range from very permissive (e.g. CC0, CC-BY) to very restrictive (CC-BY-NC-ND). On the Creative Commons website you can find a questionnaire to help you choose an appropriate license. For further information on the use of free licenses, we recommend the manual of Kreutzer. [2]

 

Waiving of copyrights

Unlike in countries such as the USA, authors in Germany cannot completely waive copyrights: Authors cannot give up certain rights. With CC0 v1.0 Universal, however, the data provider can signal that he/she is not enforcing copyrights. In this way, CC0 grants users extensive rights and promotes the dissemination and reuse of research data.

Please note: with the RADAR License Terms and Conditions for Data Providers (Curators), data providers agree to assign a CC0 license to descriptive metadata of datasets. The choice of an applicable licence for the research data itself falls to the data provider.

 

 

[1] Schulze/Dreier, § 87a, Rn. 11 ff. in Dreier, T./Schulze, G., Urheberrechtsgesetz: Kommentar, 3. Aufl. 2009.

[2] Kreutzer, T. Open Content - Ein Praxisleitfaden zur Nutzung von Creative-Commons-Lizenzen, 2016. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/cd/Open_Content_-_Ein_Praxisleitfaden_zur_Nutzung_von_Creative-Commons-Lizenzen.pdf