Intellectual Property & Copyright for Data

As a researcher, your intellectual work is your primary asset. Understanding and maintaining your rights are fundamental methods to support a sustainable system of scholarly communication. The NSF Data Management Plan requirements do not change how intellectual property has been handled under federal awards. Universities will still be able to obtain title to patents conceived or reduced to practice under the award. Your Data Management Plan will need to articulate how you are providing permissions/licenses to the data and this may or may not involve intellectual property rights depending on the type of data.

Generally speaking, under US copyright law, data are considered "facts" and therefore not copyrightable. Where the data is in the form of software, copyright may apply and you should contact NCSU's Office of Technology Transfer (OTT) for further information and guidance.  In some European jurisdictions, however, datasets may be covered by specific database rights.  Many academic scientists believe in the importance of scientific data to be shared openly. Both Science Commons ( and the The Panton Principles ( for Open Data strongly recommend that data be contributed to the public domain.

For more information about copyright and intellectual property regarding your data and publications contact:

For guidance on research integrity and grant proposal issues and questions, contact:

Content on this page adapted from University of Oregon Intellectual Property and Copyright Guide