Legal issues

As a researcher at an Australian university, you are required to collect, manage and retain your research data and primary materials in accordance with relevant legislation and University policies. Module 2 introduced you to the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research; this module focuses on the legal requirements of good data management including the QUT policy MOPP D/2.8 Management of research data and licensing your work via Creative Commons.

QUT MOPP D/2.8: Management of research data Top

The MOPP D/2.8 Management of research data applies to the management of all research data created by researchers associated or affiliated with QUT including postgraduate students engaged in research activities. This policy covers data management planning, recordkeeping, storage, retention, disposal, privacy, confidentiality, access and reuse of data. The policy states that 'Research data will be made available for access and re-use subject to any contractual, ethical, privacy or confidentiality matters'. MOPP D/2.8 Management of research data emphasises that 'Research which is supported by public funding, and higher degree research student projects, must use the online research data management planning tool'.

The Guidelines for the Management of Research Data at QUT, together with the Data Management Planning (DMP) Tool, will help you to identify any legal issues that may apply to your research data. The DMP is a tool has been developed by QUT Library based on the model created by the UK Digital Curation Centre to help you write data management plans.

Copyright and research data

Compilations of data are protected by copyright law as 'literary works' provided the compilation involved intellectual effort, was not copied from another source, and supplies 'intelligible information' (i.e. is human/machine readable).

Copyright symbol Image attribution: Mike Seyfang (2005)

Ownership of data

In general QUT owns original research data and primary materials. Intellectual property (IP) is different and you should understand this difference. Data could be considered the 'thing', IP is the special knowledge in obtaining it.

Data retention

You are obligated to retain research data and research records for as long as required by legislation, statutory requirements, funding agency guidelines and contractual arrangements with research partners. Decisions about data retention and disposal should be documented in your data management plan and stored with the data. The Queensland State Archives University Sector Retention and Disposal Schedule specifies the retention periods for research data. The Guidelines for the Management of Research Data at QUT (PDF, 271KB) gives an overview of the retention schedule for research data and research records.


A dataset may contain confidential information that should not be released to the public. If this is the case, you have a responsibility to guard against unauthorised access by using physical (locks) or digital (encryption/password) controls. Authorised access should be managed via the use of a signed confidentially/non-disclosure agreement. Non-disclosure agreements are also used to prevent potentially patentable information from being leaked into the public domain. Inadvertent disclosure of data can prevent a patent from being granted as the product or process is no longer considered 'novel'. If your research involves confidential information, this should be recorded in the data management plan. See Practical Data Management: A Legal and Policy Guide (p.22) for more information.


If your data includes personally identifying information (names and addresses), health information about identifiable individuals, or information about the movements of identifiable individuals, privacy restrictions will apply. Any personal information should be kept secure. Before collecting and using personal information in your research you should seek consent from the person to whom it relates or use a process of de-identifying the data so it no longer reveals their identity. If your research involves confidential information, this should be recorded in the data management plan. See Practical Data Management: A Legal and Policy Guide (p.24) for more information.


For research that is externally funded by a funding body or industry partner, there may be conditions attached to the funding and/or obligations related to ownership, access and dissemination. This information will be recorded in a contract that will be signed by the Chief Investigator but the obligations apply to all researchers involved in the project. The information should be included in the data management plan.

Licensing data Top

If you decide to share your data when you have completed your research, you may use a Creative Commons (CC) licence to specify the conditions that apply to reuse. You would retain ownership of the data but license others to use the work on liberal terms.

The most liberal CC licence requires attribution (BY) which means that the author is attributed, that the work is not falsely attributed to another author and that the work is not altered so as to prejudice the author's reputation.

An additional five CC licences can be created by combining attribution with other conditions, such as no commercial use (NC), no derivatives (ND) which means adaptations/mashups are not allowed, and share alike (SA) which means that derivative works must be shared under the same terms.

Example: The creative commons licence 'CC-BY-NC' means that others may use the work so long as the author is attributed and it will not be used for commercial purposes.

Combining and analysing existing data from multiple sources is common practice. The conditions attached to CC licences only apply when an entire, or substantial part of, a CC licensed dataset is reused. You should not apply a CC licence to a dataset if you are not the copyright owner or if the data contains secret, private or confidential information. Decisions relating to sharing and licensing your data at the conclusion of your research should be included in the data management plan. For more information on licensing data, refer to the Australian National Data Service (ANDS) guide to Copyright, Data and licensing.

Alternatively, you may wish to specify more restrictive conditions on the reuse of your data. The AUSGoal Restrictive Licence Template has been developed specifically for material that contains personal or other confidential information. It may also be used for other reasons, including material that is to be licensed under some form of limiting or restrictive condition (such as a time limit on use, or payment arrangements other than an initial once-only fee).