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Research Data Management: Intellectual Property


Intellectual property is an important component of the data management process. This guide seeks to orient you to resources on and off campus which can provide guidance and answers to IP-related research questions.


Intellectual property (IP) = the "product of the human intellect that the law protects from unauthorized use by others.  The ownership of intellectual property inherently creates a limited monopoly in the protected property.  Intellectual property is traditionally comprised of four categories:  patent, copyright, trademark, and trade secrets." -- Legal Information Institute.

Copyright = the lawful right of a creator to control the use of their work by others.

License = an official permit or permission to use copyrighted material. 

This guide does not constitute legal advice. 

If you would like legal advice on a specific issue relating to intellectual property and your research, please contact the General Counsel's Office.

For information on copyright as it relates to educational material and course readings, see our guide on Copyright Compliance.

Is my research data copyrightable?

Data is not copyrightable; however, presentations of data (charts, tables, graphics) may be.

Generally speaking, data are considered facts. Under US law, facts cannot be copyrighted. For example: a directory of telephone numbers and persons cannot be copyrighted, no matter how long it took one particular telephone company to compile this information (Feist Publications, Inc. v. Rural Telephone Service Co.) 

Presentations of data may be copyrightable, depending on how much originality or creativity goes into the assembling of the data, that particular assemblage may be copyrightable (say an elaborate infographic), but even then, the data underlying the infographic would not be copyrightable.


Intellectual Property Issues for Faculty. American Association of University Professors. 

Intellectual Property Rights in Data Management. Cornell University Libraries.

Open Data Commons

Creative Commons


It is best practice to license any data which you plan to share. This will clearly define to others what they may or may not do with your data. Information about licensing and/or restriction on use should be present in your data's corresponding readme file (a text file which describes another data file).

Creative Commons is a well-established provider of copyright licenses. Read about their license options, or use their license selection tool to determine what kind of license would be best for your needs.

Open Data Commons is another organization which has created three standard licenses one can use in conjunction with data projects.