The Archive rarely encounters copyright problems relating to sharing data beyond the original research project, but we provide example cases where issues may arise. These are often to do with restrictive conditions of use, e.g if data are purchased or under licence.

Case study - copyright of media sources

Scenario: A researcher has collated articles about the Prime Minister from The Guardian over the past ten years, using the LexisNexis database to source articles. They are then transcribed/copied by the researcher into a database so that content analysis can be applied. The researcher offers a copy of the database with the original transcribed text to the UK Data Archive.

Rights issue: Researchers cannot share either of these data sources as they do not have copyright in the original material. The Archive cannot accept these data as to do so would be breach of copyright. The rights holders, in this case The Guardian and LexisNexis, would need to provide consent for archiving.

Case study - copyright of licensed data

Scenario: A researcher subscribes to access spatial AgCensus data from EDINA. These data are then integrated with data collated by the researcher. As part of the ESRC research award contract the data has to be offered for archiving at the UK Data Archive. Can such integrated data be offered?

Rights issue: The subscription agreement on accessing AgCensus data states that data may not be transferred to any other person or body without prior written permission from EDINA. Therefore, the UK Data Archive cannot accept the integrated data, unless the researcher obtains permission from EDINA. The researcher's partial data, with the AgCensus data removed, can be archived. Secondary users could then re-combine these data with the AgCensus data, if they were to obtain their own AgCensus subscription.

Case study - copyright of interviews with 'elites'

Scenario: A researcher has interviewed five retired cabinet ministers about their careers, producing audio recordings and full transcripts. The researcher then analyses the data and offers them to the Archive for preserving. However, the researcher did not get signed copyright transfers for the interviewees' words.

Rights issue: In this case it would be problematic for the Archive to accept the data. Large extracts of the data cannot be quoted by secondary users. To do so would breach the interviewees' copyright over their recorded words. This is equally a problem for the primary researcher. The researcher should have asked for transfer of copyright or a licence to use the data obtained through interviews, as the possibility exists that the interviewee may at some point wish to assert the right over their words, e.g. when publishing memoirs.

Case study - transcription from a printed work into a spreadsheet

Scenario: A researcher has copied a series of statistical information from a printed work into a spreadsheet. The transcription is a direct copy with minimal alterations. The book is in copyright.

Rights issue: The researcher should technically have cleared copyright before transcription. If the work is for personal use only this can probably be disregarded but if the newly constructed dataset is to be archived and disseminated, copyright clearance will need to be gained from the copyright holder.

Case study - data obtained from UK Data Archive

Scenario: A researcher has used the National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) data, obtained via the UK Data Archive. NDNS data are Crown Copyright. The researcher has processed the NDNS data (filtered, integrated and aggregated data across variables, while maintaining individual records) and used the processed data to model food chain risks. The researcher would like to archive the processed data that were used as input data for the modelling, as well as the modelling code, at the UK Data Archive.

Rights Issue: There is joint copyright over the processed data, shared between the researcher and the Crown (holding copyright over the NDNS data). The researcher must declare this joint copyright for the modelling data and requires no further permission from the Crown. The UK Data Archive End User Licence, which the researcher signed when obtaining the NDNS data from the UK Data Archive, specifically states: "offer for deposit any new data collections derived from the data supplied or created by the combination of the data supplied with other data." Thus the UK Data Archive can archive the processed data with a joint copyright declaration.

Case study - copyright of survey questions

Scenario: A researcher wishes to re-use a set of questions from an existing survey questionnaire, to compare results between the newly proposed survey and the original.

Rights issue: It should be assumed that all survey questions and instruments are copyright protected, with copyright residing with the organisation who commissioned, designed or conducted the survey. Our advice, therefore, is to contact the copyright holder directly for permission to reproduce questionnaire text for any new use. In our experience the copyright holder will almost always grant that permission. Some questionnaires contain measurement scales, batteries of questions or classifications. These particular instruments are copyright to the institution or company that produced them and must not be reproduced without permission. In many cases, the copyright for these instruments is printed on the relevant page of the questionnaire, as in this example from the Health Survey for England.


Regardless of what the blanket terms and conditions of data use are, we would always advise researchers to try to negotiate the sharing of derived data with the data suppliers at the time of acquisition or purchase. There are cases where agreement has been successful and has actually set a precedent for opening up the sharing of such data under a broader licence.  We can advise on such negotiations.