How does copyright apply to data?

Data and factual information are not protected by copyright (e.g., rainfall or temperature measurements, mortality rates, population numbers, currency values, chemical structures, historical facts and dates, the number of Twitter followers someone has). These things exist without having been “created” by anyone. Additionally, simple visualizations such as line graphs and tables are often not creative enough to be eligible for copyright protection (note, however, that a more complex visualization such as an infographic likely is protected by copyright, even if the data depicted is not). Others may be able to copy and use these types of material without your permission, even if you collected or compiled the data. Much of the data deposited in research data repositories will fall under this category.

However, some research products are protected by copyright (e.g., collections of text mined from websites or publications, photographs, audiovisual recordings, detailed diagrams and charts). Copyright in these materials may belong to you, another member of your research team, or an external third party.

When you deposit material in a research data repository, you must be certain that you have the right to upload the material. If your material incorporates works created by others, you should have the permission of those other creators to upload it to a data repository, unless your use of the work falls under a Copyright Act provision such as fair dealing.

Contact the SFU Copyright Office at with any questions, and visit for copyright FAQs and information. For questions about depositing to data repositories and research data management in general, contact or visit Research Data Management home page.

Licensing your content in FRDR

SFU researchers are encouraged to deposit their research data to a data repository in order to improve research quality and impact as well as ensure that data remains accessible and reusable. SFU Data Services supports deposits to FRDR, Canada's Federated Research Data Repository.

When you upload content to FRDR, you must select one of the following licensing options:

The following additional licences may also be selected:

You can find additional information about Depositing Data on the FRDR website.

Creative Commons is a non-profit organization that has developed a suite of licenses that authors and other creators can apply to their works to permit sharing and distribution. Applying a Creative Commons (CC) license to your written, artistic, musical or multimedia work means that you retain ownership of copyright but you permit certain uses of your work without the user needing to contact you for permission each time. You also waive your moral rights, to the extent required for users to use your works according to the applied license. Please note that users of copyright protected works (including those under CC licenses) have certain rights in Canada’s Copyright Act; these rights will supersede the terms of a CC license where applicable.

You must be the copyright holder of the work and any other works contained within it (such as photographs, diagrams, articles, video clips, etc.), or have license or permission to include these works, in order to apply a CC license. Once you make your work available under a specific CC license, you cannot revoke or change the license associated with that specific work (though of course you may stop distributing the material).