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Copyright and open science: When two (not so) different worlds collide

What is the role of copyright in promoting access and (re)use of data? This paper addresses the aspects of copyright, and copyright-based licenses, that may foster access and (re)use of data, and the underlying purposes of open science in general.

Published onApr 27, 2023
Copyright and open science: When two (not so) different worlds collide


Open science stands, among other things, for enabling access and (re)use of resources, like data, in order to promote scientific development. Under a very similar justification of promoting creation and fostering development, copyrights, and intellectual property rights in general, are also supposed to do so, but almost in a opposite direction, since they are based on a proprietary approach predominantly relying on exclusivity. This apparent contradiction starts to fade out when copyright is seen from a different lens than solely through the exclusivity one. Actually, as some scholars advocate, exclusivity should be the exception while public domain should remain the rule. Using the Limitations and Exceptions, the public domain itself, and other elements intentionally left outside the scope of copyright law (e.g. facts and ideas) are just some of the paths that can be taken in order to promote access and (re)use of the raw material to conduct research. Another important tool to keep data accessible and reusable are the “open” licenses such as Creative Commons. In fact, most of the licenses used to reshare content are based on an underlying copyright to operate, and when this is absent, the license is not activated. Here, a question lies in the intersection between open science and copyright: what is the role of copyright-based licenses, and the copyright framework itself, in promoting access and (re)use of data? Based on the existing literature and the work that is being carried out in the EU-funded project Skills for the European Open Science Commons (Skills4EOSC), this paper offers a concise but legally sound overview of this relationship focusing on the aspects of copyright that may foster access and (re)use of data and the underlying purposes of open science in general.


Author biographies

Luca Schirru (KU Leuven) is a postdoctoral researcher at the Centre for IT & IP Law (CiTiP), Faculty of Law and Criminology. Luca holds a PhD in Public Policy, Strategies, and Development from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, where he wrote his dissertation on copyright and artificial intelligence. Prior to joining CiTiP Luca worked as a lecturer, consultant, and IP lawyer in Brazil. His current research is funded under the Skills4EOSC project.

Thomas Margoni (KU Leuven) is research professor of Intellectual Property Law at the Faculty of Law and Criminology and a member of the Board of Directors at the Centre for IT & IP Law (CiTiP). His research concentrates on the relationship among law, data, and technology. Currently, Thomas has been focusing on the changes in the creation, access, transformation, and distribution of knowledge and information brought by technologies like the Internet and AI.

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