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Georgia Southern Commons

Data Licensing

In order to facilitate reuse of research data, it is imperative that end users know the terms of use for the database and the data content. Whether you intend to publish your data with a traditional for-profit publisher, an open-access digital repository like GS Commons, or another 3rd-party repository, you should evaluate any publisher's copyright transfer agreement (CTA) for your data, as well as consider reuse licensing options.

Creative Commons Licenses

Creative Commons ( offers a library of standardized licenses, some of which may be used with data. Creative Commons recommends the following three licenses for data sharing. We recommend the CC BY 4.0 license in most cases:

  1. CC Zero (“CC0”): Use the CC0 license to waive all copyright and database rights, including your right to attribution. This license effectively places the database and data into the public domain and maximizes the likelihood of reuse.
  2. CC Attribution 4.0 International (“CC BY 4.0”): Use the CC BY 4.0 license to waive all copyright and database rights except the right to attribution. This license protects your right to be acknowledged for your work while otherwise encouraging reuse.
  3. CC Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (“CC BY-SA 4.0”): Use the CC BY-SA 4.0 license to protect your right to attribution, as well as require anyone using your work to share it under the same licensing conditions. This license ensures that any reuse of your data will be shared publicly; however, it may discourage some reuse and citation.

Creative Commons recommends use of the above licenses only. It does not recommend use of any NonCommercial (NC) or NoDerivatives (ND) licenses. For more information, see this article on the Creative Commons wiki

Other Licensing Options

In addition to Creative Commons, the Open Data Commons group ( has developed a number of legally binding tools to govern the use of databases and data. Using a combination of copyright and contractual standards, they have created three standard licenses. In addition, Open Data Commons has developed a suite of “community norms” that complement use of the formal licenses. While not carrying the force of law, these norms may be used to express your beliefs about appropriate data sharing and reuse.

The three ODC licenses are:

  1. Public Domain Dedication and License (PDDL): This dedicates the database and its content to the public domain, free for everyone to use as they see fit.
  2. Attribution License (ODC-By): Users are free to use the database and its content in new and different ways, provided they provide attribution to the source of the data and/or the database.
  3. Open Database License (ODC-ODbL): ODbL stipulates that any subsequent use of the database must provide attribution, an unrestricted version of the new product must always be accessible, and any new products made using ODbL material must be distributed using the same terms. It is the most restrictive of all ODC licenses.

Selecting a License for Your Dataset

There is no single right answer as to which license to assign to a database or data content. Note, however, that anything other than a CC0 or ODC PDDL license may present challenges for subsequent users of your data. This is because of the problem of "attribution stacking." It may be possible to extract data from a dataset, use it in a research project, and still maintain information as to the source of that data. It is possible to create a dataset derived from hundreds of sources with each source requiring acknowledgement. Furthermore, the data in the other databases may not have originated with it, but instead have been sourced from other databases that also demand attribution. Rather than legally require that everyone provide attribution to the data, it might be enough to express the community norm that says “if you make extensive use of data from this dataset, please credit the authors.”

Contact Info


For help, contact the GS Commons Team at A team member will respond as soon as possible during regular business hours.