Best practice guidelines for copyright and licencing


Are there Ropensci best practice guidelines for copyright and licencing of all research outputs (e.g. software packages, documentation, blogs, website contents)?

Copyright practices for *analysis* code
Data license visibility

There’s this discussion

You can also get a sense of what licenses are in use with a quick github search; org:ropensci “LICENSE”


Thanks for your question @r.gayler

We do not have guidelines for all research outputs.

Does anyone have thoughts on best practices for non-software outputs?


Just expanding on the question - I am sure that a couple of years ago I saw some reasonably forcefully expressed opinions from some Open Science people on appropriate licencing, but I can’t find them now with online searching.

My, possibly inaccurate, recollection was that they were arguing for absolute open-ness with cc-0 licensing (or equivalent). I have certainly seen arguments that non-commercial or share-alike licensing constraints act to damp open science.

I am building a new personal website that may eventually have some content of use to others, and the relevant point is that I automatically hold copyright and in the absence of explicitly granted permissions potential readers only have whatever “fair use” is granted by their jurisdiction.

In the absence any arguments to the contrary, I am intending to license my website as cc-by.


CC-BY makes a lot of sense for website/blog text

CC0 makes the most sense for data AFAICT, so not appropriate if it’s mostly text like a website/blog


Thanks Scott. I have opted for CC-BY for the website. There’s no data there yet, so the CC0 will have to wait.


We’ve been looking at the copyright and licensing issues surround reproducible research compendia in the RDA/CODATA Legal Interoperability group, and my sense is that the compendia of code, software, narrative, metadata, etc. represents, at least under US Copyright Law, a “compilation” defined as:

“a work formed by the collection and assembling of preexisting materials or of data that are selected, coordinated, or arranged in such a way that the resulting work as a whole constitutes an original work of authorship. The term “compilation” includes collective works.”

Compilations under this definition are eligible for copyright protection and thus may be open licensed using a CC-BY-(whatever) license or they be dedicated to the public domain using the CC-Zero mark. What is important to recognize, however, is that the copyright in the compilation does not inherit down to the constituent research objects comprising the compendium. Each research object would have its own copyright and ownership depending on law and the policies of governing bodies eg one’s employer, funder, or publisher. Some constitute objects may also be ineligible for copyright.

The tricky bit seems to be that all rights and licensing metadata needs to be tightly coupled to the object it is associated with so that people and machines have legal certainty around reuse, modification, and redistribution. It seems there is a lot of misunderstanding about the rights for the compendium proper inheriting down to the constituent objects.

Our current release of the CODATA-RDA Principles and Guidelines for Legal Interoperability of Research Data ( is written with the discrete constitutent object(s) in mind – ie, the data, metadata, narrative, or software. But we need to update it to address the additional complexity of research compedia as “compilations”.

We’d love to bring one of your use cases to our group for further analysis and discussion. Ideally we would design our next program to focus on the legal interop issues in research compendia at the RDA Thirteenth Plenary Meeting, Philadelphia, US. 02 Apr 2019. If anyone on this discussion board is interested in participating, you are most welcome!

Gail Clement, Co-Chair, RDA/CODATA Legal Interoperability Interest Group


Thanks Gail. My website is pretty minimal at the moment, so probably doesn’t serve as a credible use-case for a research compendium. I can see that the the separate treatment of part/whole would be an issue as would ensuring that the metadata is tightly couple to the components. I’ll try to send out a tweet pointing to your work.