Avoiding Copyright Violations in Data Collections

This section contains rules and informations to avoid violations of copyrights in Data Collections.

Copyright restrictions

An important legal issue related to the online publication of Data Collections is copyrights. In the case of, for example, content or discourse analyses, event databases based on media reporting, or audio and video collections, copyright regulations may prohibit the publication of the underlying Data Collection.

Whenever there is a copyright holder, the explicit, written and archived consent of that copyright holder is required in order to publish the respective file online. This rule also applies to small excerpts from texts, as long as they are not integrated into an analysis in the form of quotes. That means, for example, that even small clippings from media reporting cannot be published on Discuss Data without the consent of the copyright holders, i.e. in this case usually the respective media companies.

The copyright restriction also applies, when the copyright holders make content publicly available for free. Without the explicit consent of the copyright holder in a written and archived form, it is illegal to re-publish the material protected by copyright. This includes the inclusion of the respective material or parts of it in a Data Collection which will be available online. For example, videos downloaded from the YouTube platform cannot be published elsewhere. The same is true for materials downloaded from any website, if not explicitly stated otherwise (for example, in case of open data with appropriate licenses).


Materials, which are clearly intended for further distribution or public access, like press statements, official announcements by state authorities or public treaties and agreements between states, are excepted from this provision. Further exceptions apply if:

  • The information has been previously released to the public
  • The information describes public figures, where the data relates to their public roles or other non-sensitive subjects
  • A sufficient length of time has passed and copyrights have expired
  • All identified subjects have given explicit informed consent allowing the public release of the information in the Data Collection. The respective consent forms (or scans of them) have to be submitted together with the Data Collection
  • All identified subjects are deceased and no legal statute explicitly restricts the release of the data

Copyright rules

In any case, the results of own data analysis or interpretation (e.g., coding results in the case of content analysis or descriptions of pictures, audio or video sources) can be published online without any restrictions as the author of the analysis or interpretation is the relevant copyright holder. The Data Depositor should, therefore, upload the results of the data analysis in the form of tables or analytical texts produced by himself.

Copyright protected materials can only be uploaded to the Discuss Data platform if a legally binding agreement from the copyright holder is submitted together with the Data Collection.

If original material protected by copyrights cannot be included in the Data Collection to be uploaded to the Discuss Data platform, an option may be to indicate the web links to the material instead of reproducing the material on the Discuss Data platform. This option is especially valid if the respective materials are part of a long-term archive, ideally provided with a permanent digital object identifier (DOI).

If materials are either not available online for longer periods, like e.g. on homepages of media outlets, or are protected by a pay wall, the original materials cannot even be referenced in a meaningful way in the Data Collection on the Discuss Data platform.

In any case, the Data Depositor should describe how materials were collected and provide links to original sources in the Documentation of Data Collection.

The Data Depositor can also make content available to interested researchers on an individual basis within private usage rights of copyrighted materials. This option can be chosen when uploading a Data Collection. The respective legal rules vary between countries. Accordingly, the Discuss Data platform cannot provide general legal guidance.

To protect copyrights on the Discuss Data platform, every Data Depositor specifies per access & license options the extent to which Data Collections can become available and shared online. Furthermore, Curators will check any Data Upload in order to ensure that technical as well as legal requirements are fulfilled.