Licensing data

Updated on 7 July 2023

Guidance on how to license data and which license to use.

On this page

When you share your data you will need to inform others if there are any restrictions on use. By applying a licence you can give guidance on what you will allow and in doing so enable others to re-use your data following any conditions you have set.

You will also need;

  • to tell users if you have re-used data from others where existing licences are in place and need to be observed.
  • to check with academic and commercial partners that you have their permission to licence the data and that you understand their wishes.

Choosing a licence

The ideal licence for open science is a CCO or Public Domain licence. This means the creator of a dataset has waived their copyright and related rights. Public Domain data place no restrictions on use.  There is a very useful Fact Sheet on Creative Commons and Open Science that helps explain the nature of copyright in relation to data and the restrictions on data use.

The advantage to you of licensing your data is that you are able to apply a disclaimer (a common element in Creative Commons and Public Domain Licences).


The Digital Curation Centre have a guide on How to License Research Data.

There are a number of guides produced by CREATe, University of Glasgow, the University of Glasgow Research Information Management Services with the support of Jisc.


There is a licence selector tool that you can use to help you to choose the type of licence that best suits you.  By answering the questions posed in a wizard-like interface, users are directed to one or more appropriate licences they can use when publishing.  The tool was developed by a team led by Pawel Kamocki (researcher IT Law at IDS Mannheim, Germany), it is made available as open source software).

How to apply a licence

When you make your data available via a repository you will create metadata about that data, e.g. the title, creator, publisher, year and so on - within this metadata you have the option to include any licence details.