Copyright, Intellectual Property and Research Data

As more data is being shared and re-used, as a data creator and user you need to be aware of the following:-

Intellectual Property

Intellectual property (IP) is created when an individual or organisation has an original idea and establishes legal ownership over it (making it their 'property').

In the absence of any agreements to the contrary, the University assumes ownership of all IP generated by staff.

The University will not usually assert ownership unless it is commercially beneficial. The University has a policy of granting a generous share of the returns to provide an incentive to its inventors.

At any stage of the research project, if you feel your research has some commercial value, you should seek advice. The Liverpool Intellectual Property team will help you determine if your work can be protected and how best to do so.

Copyright and Publications

To publish your research results and data in a traditional subscription-based journal you will usually need to sign a copyright transfer or copyright assignment form. This means that you no longer own the copyright in that work, and may be prevented from doing things like revising and adapting the paper for new publication, re-using the paper as a chapter in a book, distributing copies to colleagues, and so on. Note you may still be able to do this if the publisher agrees, but the decision rests with the publisher, not you. Publishers can then, for example, charge high fees to members of the public to read your paper or access the data in a supplementary file.

The agreement you sign with a traditional publisher might be less restrictive. If you are unsure, or wish to amend the standard copyright agreements, then you should discuss alternatives with your publisher.

Copyright agreements also extend to any supplementary information attached to the article. It is not advisable, therefore, to provide your research data in a supplementary file but as a separate dataset, which can be cited and identified by a DOI (Digital Object Identifier). The data can be accessed via a data repository (either institutional or subject specific) and fully open or open via request (if controlled access is required).

Open Access

Make your data even more accessible by opting for open access when publishing your journal article or conference proceeding! The University has an open access policy, for outputs to be as open as possible, so may your funder. There may be funds available to facilitate open access and increase your data visibility. Please contact the Scholarly Communications Librarian for more advice

Copyright when using interviewee data

Although the researcher will have copyright over the actual recordings of a recorded interview, interviewees retain legal rights over their own recorded words. From a copyright as well as an ethical perspective, it is important to obtain informed consent from participants detailing how data will be used and who will have access to it. A good awareness of copyright issues in this area should ensure that there are fewer restrictions in how you can use and share the data, maximising impact.

Copyright when using secondary sources

Often researchers may use sources which are previously copyrighted, such as newspaper content or datasets from a previous research project. If you do not have copyright over the original material, copyright clearance should be obtained from the copyright holder before you can share this data to a wider audience. Data Centres should provide clear guidelines on who owns the rights to the data held and how it can be shared by those who access it.

Copyright when text or data mining

Changes to the copyright law allow researchers to make copies of copyrighted material for the purposes of text and data mining if they already have ‘lawful access’ to it. Text and data mining is defined as the use of automated analytical techniques to analyse text and data for patterns, trends and other useful information. This exception is only valid for non-commercial research; those carrying out commercial research will still have to ensure they have appropriate permissions to copy data for this purpose. Further information is available in a document from the Intellectual Property Office.

Further sources of help

Please note this guidance is for information only and is not intended to replace legal advice when faced with a risk decision.

If in doubt over copyright issues the Legal, Risk and Compliance team provides in house legal advice to the University.