Copyright, IP and research data

Commonwealth laws and University policies relating to ownership of copyright and other intellectual property apply to data that is used and created as part of research at the University of Sydney.

Ownership and rights will determine how the data can be managed into the future, so these should be documented early in a project through data management planning.

While rules around copyright and other IP apply to all University of Sydney researchers, there are some important differences between research staff and research students. These are highlighted in the sections below.

Australian copyright and research data

Australian copyright law applies to research data that you create or compile, in the same way that it applies to written works such as books, journal articles and reports.

The data must be sufficiently original for copyright protection. Originality requires some exercise of independent intellectual effort by an author or authors in the creation, selection, presentation, or arrangement of information.

Examples of research data covered by copyright include tables, compilations, datasets, databases, and collections of photographs or multimedia works (sound files or videos).

University of Sydney copyright and other IP policies and procedures

All research data created at the University of Sydney is subject to the University of Sydney (Intellectual Property) Rule 2002.

Ownership of IP

If you are a staff member

In general, the University of Sydney owns intellectual property rights, including copyright, in research data originated by academic staff. In the case of research works or data, the University assigns copyright in that work to the academic staff member who created the work. The University retains the right to reproduce or disseminate this work for teaching and research purposes on a royalty-free basis. The University of Sydney retains ownership over research that is used in course materials. The author is granted the right to reproduce or disseminate the work as part of their teaching and research.

You should refer to the University of Sydney (Intellectual Property) Rule 2002. and consult the Copyright Coordinator for further advice if required.

If you are a research student

In general, students own the copyright in all materials generated in the course of their studies, including their thesis and the research data.

Contractors, guests, visiting lecturers

Ownership of IP including copyright should be covered in the contract for services between the University of Sydney and the contractor. If the contract is not explicit about any requirements for copyright and other IP to be assigned to the University of Sydney, then the contractor will usually own the copyright and other IP in any data they create or compile.

In the case of visiting lecturers, reuse will require consent from the lecturer.

Commercialisation of research data

Researchers should consult with Commercial Development and Industry Partnerships before sharing research data with commercial potential. Disclosure of IP to external parties in an unplanned way can defeat its commercial potential.

Considering commercialisation as part of data management planning will help ensure that commercialisation goals can be balanced in the longer term with policy and funding requirements around data sharing (particularly for publicly funded research) and knowledge creation. Commercialisation may necessitate limiting access to your research data temporarily, but it may be possible to provide open or licensed access at a later date once the commercial value of the data has been assessed.

Use of existing third party research data

Usage of data from third parties will usually be subject to copyright and/or licensing agreements. Even if research data is freely available for download on the internet, there may be terms and conditions associated with its use and/or reuse.

If you will be using third party research data, you should consider copyright, other IP and contractual issues as part of data management planning. Agreements with the data owners will have an impact on how data can be managed during your project and into the future.

Some kinds of third party data may also have additional usage restrictions such as ethical requirements around data linkage and the identifiability of human subjects. If your research will involve third party data about human subjects you will need to complete a human ethics application that outlines how you will manage issues of privacy, and to meet any requirements of the data owner.