Research at Risk

IPR and Licensing #MRDipr

The IPR and Licensing Group (#MRDipr) was the fourth of five Working Groups formed at the JISCMRD Phase Two Launch Workshop.

The MRDipr Group, with input from Naomi Korn, decomposed the problem in the following way:

Legacy data

  • Legacy constraints, integration/ingest problems (licence incompatibility).

New data

  • What licences are the best for different agendas?
  • What is the agenda for MRD projects? Is there a best option for this programme?


  • Unhappy interaction between IPR/Licence issues and ethical issues (privacy, confidentiality, consent, etc.)

Various matters were raised:

It was pointed out that Charlotte Waelde’s GRADE Report (2007) was something of a landmark: argued that no database copyright subsists in the structure of a geospatial dataset.

It was noted that under the JISC OER Phase 2, IPR Support is creating a risk management wizard with regard to licenses.  This led to the suggestion that projects should keep a risk register, keeping track of data licenses.

The social and practical challenges to widespread adoption of CC0 licenses for data were discussed.  It was suggested that CC0 licenses may deter researchers from sharing data as people can be reluctant and risk averse when it comes to waiving all rights and interests.  Likewise, the necessary exemptions for sensitive data of various sorts make it difficult for funders to mandate use of CC0.  Although such ethical considerations are a different matter to IPR, they interact badly with licensing issues.  By the same token, however, no-one is advocating a one-size fits all mandate…

The group made the following recommendations and plans for work:

1) To disseminate and raise awareness of existing JISC materials (e.g. Web2Rights poster, reports, riskwizard, CClicencewizard etc.)

2) With input if possible from Naomi Korn, to hold programme workshop on IPR and licensing issues relating to research data; this could perhaps be taken forward, build upon or be built upon by a DCC Roadshow session?

3) Advise projects to write a policy on the level of risk they are prepared to take, signed by the project director, PI.

4) Advise projects to keep risk registers:

  • record permissions you have been granted;
  • record decisions made about using data (e.g. didn’t use X because of attribution clause);
  • record if copyright holders been traced/contacted;
  • assign one person the task of handling IPR/licence issues for the project.

1 reply on “IPR and Licensing #MRDipr”

It sounds to me like the group should consider the open data licenses provided by Open Data Commons,

ODC created the first ever open data license: the Public Domain Dedication and License (PDDL) in 2008, and its co-creator was Prof. Charlotte Waelde, cited above. ODC is based in the UK, associated with the Open Knowledge Foundation, but the license is designed to work in as many jurisdictions as possible.

Our Edinburgh DataShare repository adopted that license as an option for depositors before CC0 existed but I agree that researchers are uncomfortable with the notion of waiving their rights. Which is why I was very pleased to see that ODC has since created two other licenses:
– Attribution License (ODC-By) — “Attribution for data/databases” and
– Open Database License (ODC-ODbL) — “Attribution Share-Alike for data/databases”

We will shortly be adding the attribution license as another option for our depositors. In terms of burden on users I don’t think ‘attribution stacking’ is as big a problem for academic data as share-alike may be.

Jordan Hatcher, co-creator of the licenses, is an expert in open data licensing and has done workshops for the DCC and Repository Fringe. You may want to contact him about the proposed workshop for this group.

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