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Explaining aspects of copyright to be aware of when studying, lecturing or undertaking research. Please note that information on these pages is for guidance only: it does not constitute formal legal advice.

Copyright guidance for publishing from UKRI and JISC

Open Access publications funded by UKRI should be published with a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence (or sometimes, by application, another permitted licence which doesn't allow content to be changed, if necessary: CC BY-ND). Copyrighted material can still be used in publications, but it must be clear from the citation that it is not covered by the Creative Commons licence that applies to the rest of the article.

Publishing: Copyright and the Rights Retention Strategy

The aim of the Rights Retention Strategy (RRS) is to ensure researchers have greater control over the rights to their work, and maximise the re-use of their accepted manuscripts. Initially implemented by cOAlition S, an international consortium of research funders dedicated to open access for research outputs, it is part of Plan S, put in place to improve the rate of transition towards open access. RRS is a requirement of many funders, including UKRI and the Wellcome Trust.

Plan S and the Rights Retention Strategy is covered in more detail on the Understanding Open Access guide.

Publishing: copyright-related hints

  • Check publishers' Open Access and Archiving policies: use the Sherpa/Romeo tool to check this. These may affect how easily you can share the paper after publication, without having problems with copyright.
  • Check the publishers' contracts or agreements carefully to make sure you don't agree to anything you don't want to, or that won't be compliant with your funders' policies. Often these can be viewed on the publishers' websites. Sometimes they are online agreements, accessed by a link in an email. For example, they may ask you to
    • transfer copyright to the publisher, or
    • agree to a licence that restricts unnecessarily what you can do with the paper after publication

Sometimes publishers may agree to amend the contract in certain ways if you ask them.

  • Online repositories such as, ResearchGate and SSRN: these may be useful for networking and collaboration. However, please note:
    • these are not managed in the same way that an institutional repository such as City Research Online is, which means that embargos, copyright compliance, and other details are not checked (although SSRN does check that the paper is a part of the scholarly discourse in its subject area).
    • they are also not compliant with the Research Excellence Framework (REF).
    • SSRN is now owned by Elsevier, who have imposed stringent conditions on what is posted there. For example, they are claiming a non-exclusive licence on anything that is not already published. See the SSRN terms of use for more information.
    • please do not put pdfs downloaded from electronic resources on these sites - normally this will breach the terms and conditions that we agree with suppliers. It may be possible to use either the preprint or postprint (depending on what the publisher allows).
  • Preprints: it is now common practice to share early drafts of papers online, particularly in certain disciplines. However, it may be wise to be aware if your intended journal has a policy relating to sharing early drafts - if very similar to the submitted version it may be regarded as prior publication.
  • Sharing papers online after publication:
    • Permission from the publisher may be necessary, unless the article is published with a Creative Commons or other open licence.
    • You may not be able to use the final published version, but it may be possible to use either the preprint or postprint (depending on what the publisher allows).
    • Please do not use pdfs downloaded from electronic resources - normally this will breach the terms and conditions that we agree with suppliers.
    • Check that co-authors are happy for the paper to be re-posted or re-published.
    • Use of papers for teaching by authors is often permitted (so these may be put on Moodle).

Data Management: the role of copyright and licencing

What is data?

Data is most commonly associated with figures in a spreadsheet. However, data arising from research can be almost anything: measurements, lab notebooks, computer code, observations, recordings and transcripts of interviews, photographs and more.

Datasets should be as openly available as possible, but other factors need to be considered, such as copyright, data protection, commercialisation.


Copyright applies to all of these types of data - and it is probably not you who owns it.

  • The default position, according to the Intellectual Property Policy, is that your institution owns all research data arising from research carried out in the university.
  • However, for the advancement of an academic’s career, the university will grant an implied irrevocable worldwide, royalty-free license for the purposes of research data. Individuals will be responsible for making any publishers, or any other party, aware of this license.

There are exceptions:

  • Research subjects will own the copyright of their contributions, e.g., interview responses. You can ask them to assign the copyright to City, University of London in the agreement they sign.
  • If the research is sponsored by a private company, there may be terms in the agreement affecting copyright and the potential openness of the data.
  • If you have information belonging to third parties as part of your data, you will not be able to make that part open access without permission.
  • Data downloaded from Library Services subscribed databases may not be made publicly available, or shared or licensed, without permission of the publisher.

Database Right

Databases are not subject to copyright (although their content may be). There is another piece of law called 'database right', which recognises any substantial intellectual effort you have put into creating the database and obtaining its contents, which stops others using it, or copying it without permission. City will own this right but licence it to the researcher.


If an article is accepted for publication, the copyright should, if possible, be retained by the author(s) (this is a requirement for some funders). Even if it is, the copyright of any associated dataset should not be assigned to the publisher. The licence that City grants does not permit this.

City uses Figshare as a data repository; see Digital research data and Figshare. Alternatively, depending on discipline, there are other repositories where it may be appropriate to deposit your data. There are lists of repositories, for example the Registry of Research Data Repositories or Nature's Scientific Data.


There are a number of different licensing options to allow others to re-use the data.