Licensing your data


If you publish your data at the data repository of your choice, a license agreement will be applied to your data. A license agreement is a legal arrangement between the creator/depositor of the data set and the data repository, signifying what a user is allowed to do with the data. Stating clear reuse rights is like having a warm 'Welcome' on the doormat of your dataset. It is an important aspect in making sure your data meet the R (Reusable) in FAIR data management.

To make reuse as likely as possible we advise you to choose a licence which:

  • Makes data available to the widest audience possible;
  • Makes the widest range of uses possible.

About Creative Commons licences

The main attributes of using Creative Commons (2017) licences for the licensing of data, datasets and databases (Korn and Oppenheim, 2011) are:

  • The ease of use of the licences;
  • The widespread adoption of the licences;
  • Their flexibility;
  • Their availability in human-readable and machine-readable forms allowing both researchers and computers to immediately know what they are allowed to do with your data;
  • The chance that your data are reused.

There are 7 licenses for which the details are given in the table below (inspired by Foter, 2015):

Do note that a CC licence cannot be revoked once it has been issued.

The licence you are allowed to apply may be determined or limited by the data repository of your choice. In the accordion below an example is given.

  • The Slovenian Social Science Data Archives (ADP, 2017b) allows you to choose between three types of Creative Commons licenses (ADP, 2017c):

    • CC-BY
      • Are free to share — copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format;
      • Are free to adapt — remix, transform, and build upon the material;
      • May use the data sets for any purpose, even commercially.
    • CC-BY-NC
      • Are free to share — copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format;
      • Are free to adapt — remix, transform, and build upon the material;
      • May not use the data sets for commercial purposes.

    Both licenses have the condition of Attribution. A user must give appropriate credit (Creative Commons, n.d.a).

    Recently, ADP also gives the possibility to choose a Creative Commons Zero License (in short: CC0 or CC Zero Waiver(Creative Commons, n.d.b.). With this license the depositor waives all rights to the data.

Considerations in choosing a licence

If you only consider your own benefit, you might choose for a licence for which attribution is required. What you may not realise is that when such data is blended with similarly licenced data this may lead to impracticalities of required attribution (Dodds, 2014) whenever the data is reused. To facilitate the release of datasets and databases into the public domain, Creative Commons created the CC0 licence.


CC0 is the only truly open Creative Commons licence. The copyright owner waives all its rights, including the database right and the right to be identified as the creator.
Although CC0 can be used to prevent attribution stacking, attribution can be important as a means to recognise both the source and the authority of the data. To acknowledge this right, the use of CC0 can include the publishing of non-binding suggestions for best practices in attribution.

There will be circumstances in which CC0 is inappropriate, due to specific risks that might arise for the licensor and perhaps subsequently also for any users. E.g. when:

  • Datasets containing (sensitive) personal information are deposited for which consent has not been cleared (see the chapter on protecting data);
  • Permission of the copyright holder has not been sought;
  • The rights holders are unknown or cannot be traced (orphan works).

In these cases, licences that place ‘some’ restrictions upon the user, such as those with an “ND” (No derivatives) and/or “NC” (Non-Commercial) might be more appropriate.

Tips for choosing a licence

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  • 1. Make sure who owns the data
    Remember you can only archive and publish data you own (or if you have permission).
    2. Use the licence selector
    Choose an appropriate licence for your datasets with this licence selector (n.d.).