Copyright and licences

Knowing about authors’ rights – both yours and others – and sharing your work with an open licence helps you make your research more open.

Ownership of copyright

The University’s Copyright Policy specifies ownership of rights to scholarly works.

Commercially valuable research should be declared to the Technology Transfer Office as early as possible, in line with the University’s Intellectual Property Code (the new policy is being published soon).

Creative Commons licences

A Creative Commons (CC) licence ensures that:

  • Authors will always receive proper attribution for their work
  • Others can re-use the work in specified ways e.g. share it, adapt it, or use it for commercial purposes

Creative commons licences commonly used for publications vary according to their terms of re-use. The most open licence is the CC-BY licence, required by UKRI and by the Wellcome Trust, which allows others to share, adapt and re-use the work even commercially, always with attribution to you. View the the full range of licences.

Watch Creative Commons licences explained video to find out more.

Sharing and licensing

Sharing and licensing your publications

  • Where possible, you should try to keep copyright on behalf of the University rather than sign it over to the publisher
  • If it is not possible to keep the copyright, as a minimum you should try to keep the right to share your author’s accepted manuscript (AAM) in the University’s open access repository

The University stands behind new initiatives like the UK Scholarly Communications Licence (UKSCL), which enable authors to share their publications online in a timely way.

The Open Research team runs a copyright checking service, to ensure that publishers’ policies and embargoes are respected. In the unlikely case of copyright infringement, the University’s repository has a Take Down Policy. 

Journal articles, conference proceedings and monographs published under an open access model are typically under a Creative Commons Licence. Funders including UKRI and the Wellcome Trust require a Creative Commons Attribution Licence (CC-BY).

When you publish open access, you will be typically presented with a choice of licences on the publisher’s website or in your publishing agreement. These licences determine how others can share and re-use your work; they all require attribution to you. Please make sure that you choose the Creative Commons Attribution Licence (CC-BY). The University’s open access funds do not normally support publishing under other licences such as CC BY-NC or CC BY ND. For more information, see our section on Creative Commons Licences.

The table below sums up the options under a subscription model and an open access model.

Paper accepted?Who dictates the rights?Can the author share the work publicly?Can others re-use the work?
Standard copyright agreement with a subscription journalThe publisherPublisher decidesUsually permission from the publisher is required
Published under Gold OAAuthor/author's institution keeps copyrightYesUsually under a CC-BY licence

Sharing and licensing your research data

Most funding bodies have policies on research data management and sharing. Make sure you are familiar with your funder’s requirements, especially around sharing your data. Data sharing requirements are designed to serve two purposes: facilitating reuse and enabling verification.

Although funders do expect you to share your data, they also recognise that there are legitimate reasons why you may not be able to do so. These include:

Commercial potential or interests and contractual termsSharing may still be possible under licence (e.g. CC-BY Non-Commercial) or subject to a Non-Disclosure Agreement
Data belongs to collaborators or a third partyLimited sharing may still be possible if subject to a Non-Disclosure Agreement
Personal or private informationSharing may still be possible if explicit consent to do so is obtained; see the UK Data Service on consent and other ethical/legal issues
Sensitive information which could compromise unprotected intellectual property or, in the judgement of the security services, result in unacceptable risk to the citizens of the UK or its alliesNo sharing

If you need to restrict access to your data, the reasons for doing so must be outlined in your DMP, included in the metadata (which will be publicly available), and the Data Statement which accompanies any publications based on the data.

If you wish to license your data, you must first establish who owns the intellectual property rights (IPR)

  • If you are working with commercial collaborators or your funder is a private organisation, your contract will specify who owns the IPR to your data
  • In most other instances, the owner is likely to be the University.

Creative Commons offer a range of standard licencing options from the most open to the more restrictive. It is unlikely that you would need the more restrictive options of a CC licence. So, unless there are compelling reasons to do otherwise (e.g. contractual obligations) we recommend a simple CC-BY licence in order maximise dissemination and reuse of your data.

To attach a licence to your data, simply include a statement in the metadata to the effect that the data is available under the chosen licence with a link to the full text of the licence. For example:

If your data has commercial value, contact the Technology Transfer Office to discuss your options. For more guidance on licencing data, see the DCC’s How to License Research Data.