Ownership and rights

How Australian copyright law applies to data; staff and student ownership of data under the Monash Intellectual Property Framework; using other people's data responsibly

University policies and laws relating to ownership of copyright and other intellectual property apply to data that is used and created as part of research at Monash University.

As a researcher, you should clarify ownership of and rights relating to research data before a project starts. Ownership and rights will determine how the data can be managed into the future, so these should be documented early in a project through data planning.

While rules around copyright and other IP apply to all Monash University researchers, there are some important differences between research staff and graduate research students. These are highlighted in the sections below.

Australian copyright and research data

Australian copyright law applies to research data that you create or compile, in the same way that it applies to written works like books, journal articles and reports.

The data must be sufficiently original for copyright protection. Originality requires some exercise of independent intellectual effort by an author or authors in the creation, selection, presentation, or arrangement of information.

Examples of research data covered by copyright include tables, compilations, datasets, databases, and collections of photographs or multimedia works (sound files or videos).

Monash copyright and other IP policies and procedures

All research data created at Monash University is subject to the Intellectual Property Framework.

Where research is conducted by Monash staff or students as part of their employment or studies, the University's Statute 11.2 Intellectual Property and Copyright and Intellectual Property Regulations apply. The University Solicitor's Office has created the Explanatory Memorandum for IP Statute and Regulations and should be consulted over IP issues.

Copyright intranet website


Major topics are covered in detail, these include:

Ownership of IP

If you are a staff member

In general, Monash University owns intellectual property rights, including copyright, in research data originated by academic staff. In the case of research works or data, the University assigns copyright in that work to the academic staff member who created the work. The University retains the right to reproduce or disseminate this work for teaching and research purposes on a royalty-free basis. Monash retains ownership over research that is used in course materials. The author is granted the right to reproduce or disseminate the work as part of their teaching and research.

Under the University Intellectual Property Statutes, the University also owns intellectual property rights in data created or generated by an academic staff member where the University has made a specific contribution to the creation or collection of data, e.g. through funding or facilities, or through the provision of background intellectual property. Software and other research related to patent-worthy discoveries or inventions are examples of IP prescribed by the University Statutes.

You should refer to the Statutes and consult the University Solicitor for further advice if required.

If you are a graduate research student

In general, students own the copyright in all materials generated in the course of their studies, including their thesis and the research data, except for the following three situations:

  • the university has made a specific contribution of funding/resources/facilities or apparatus AND you make or contribute to a patent worthy discovery or invention
  • the student has been provided with background intellectual property owned by the university or their supervisor
  • if the research is subject of an agreement between the university and a third party that deals with IP rights, for example a funding agreement that assigns all or some ownership of the research.

At the time of enrolment, a student should have discussed copyright and other IP issues with their supervisor and completed the Intellectual Property Assignment notification form. If appropriate, a Deed of Assignment of Intellectual Property will be signed. Students should refer to the Monash University Graduate Research website for further information about these processes and intellectual property.


Ownership of IP including copyright, should be covered in the contract for services between Monash University and the contractor. If the contract is not explicit about any requirements for copyright and other IP to be assigned to Monash, then the contractor will usually own the copyright and other IP in any data they create or compile.

External parties

Where research is conducted in collaboration with partners outside of Monash University, or for external agencies (e.g. funding bodies), ownership of copyright and other IP needs to be explicitly agreed to by the parties.

Ownership of copyright and other IP will commonly be dealt with in a document such as a funding agreement, contract or a memorandum of understanding. All researchers should be familiar with the requirements of any funding agreements, contracts and partnership arrangements, and consider these during data planning.

Commercialisation of research data

Researchers should consult with your Faculty Business Development Manager or Industry Engagement and Commercialisation before sharing research data with commercial potential. Disclosure of IP to external parties in an unplanned way can defeat its commercial potential.

Considering commercialisation as part of data planning will help ensure that commercialisation goals can be balanced in the longer term with policy and funding requirements around data sharing (particularly for publicly funded research) and knowledge creation. Commercialisation may necessitate limiting access to your research data temporarily, but it may be possible to provide open or licensed access at a later date once the commercial value of the data has been assessed.

Use of existing third party research data

The Monash Copyright intranet site has guidelines on using third party content. These guidelines apply to research data as well as to other types of materials.

Usage of data from third parties will usually be subject to copyright and/or licensing agreements. Even if research data is freely available for download on the internet, there may be terms and conditions associated with its use.

If you will be using third party research data, you should consider copyright, other IP and contractual issues as part of data planning. Agreements with the data owners will have an impact on how data can be managed during your project and into the future.

Some kinds of third party data may also have additional usage restrictions such as ethical requirements around data linkage and the identifiability of human subjects. If your research involves third party data about human subjects you will need to complete a human ethics application that outlines how you will manage issues of privacy, and to meet any requirements of the data owner.

Licences and copyright

Copyright is retained under most purchase agreements or licences. However, copyright owners through licensing arrangements may give express permission for certain kinds of use / re-use, for example non-commercial use. If the data you want to use (re-use) has no evident express permission, you will need to approach the copyright owners yourself.

When using licensed data, ensure that you are aware of and understand the fine print around licences (terms and conditions) for modifying and deriving data. As a researcher, it is your responsibility to be clear about what you can or cannot do with someone else's data.

For more information on licensing frameworks, see the guideline on re-using data.

For more information on using Creative Commons licences, see the guideline on Incorporating resources in Monash Short Courses: Open-access resources