MIT Libraries

Data Management and Publishing


Ethical and Legal Issues

When publishing data, it is vital to consider the rights and responsibilities you have with regard to issues of confidentiality and intellectual property.


It is vital to maintain the confidentiality of research subjects for reasons of ethics and to ensure the continuing participation in research. At the same time, data on research subjects can be shared if proper steps are taken to maintain participant confidentiality:

Intellectual Property Issues

Sharing data that you produced/collected yourself:

  • Data is not copyrightable (yet a particular expression of data can be, such as a chart or table in a book).
  • Data can be licensed; some data providers apply licenses that limit how the data can be used, such as to protect the privacy of participants in a study or guide downstream uses of the data (e.g., requiring attribution or forbidding for-profit use).
  • If you want to promote sharing and unlimited use of your data, you can make your data available under a CC0 Declaration to make this explicit.

Sharing data that you have collected from other sources:

If you are uncertain as to your rights to disseminate data, MIT researchers also can consult the Office of General Counsel. Note: Laws about data vary outside the U.S.




For advice on a data management project, contact:


For help on a data management project, contact:

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