I am submitting a data article to an open access journal, with the data available in a repository (Open Science Framework). I need to add a license to the data repository. It seems from some internet research that the CC0 would be the correct option for a data set, but I have a hard time finding the difference between CC0 and CC-BY licenses. So I have 2 questions: first, would CC0 be appropriate, and secondly, what is the actual difference?

  • Welcome, but I think you're posting on the wrong site. Maybe try opensource.stackexchange.com instead? Sep 4, 2018 at 22:33
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    On the contrary, I think this is an excellent place to ask this question. It isn't about open source code, it's about open data - something that many in academia should be concerned with. Since there isn't, so far as I know, an open data site...?
    – Flyto
    Sep 5, 2018 at 12:36
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    @Flyto: There is Open Data, but the existence on other sites does not affect what is on-topic here.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Sep 5, 2018 at 14:36
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    People often say "If you use the data set / program / tool, consider citing [our paper]". This is more in the sense of CC-BY. Sep 5, 2018 at 18:10
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    @OlegLobachev CC-0 does not waive the expectation that a researcher should cite all sources, including data. See also datadryad.org/pages/faq#info-cc0 Sep 6, 2018 at 6:28

3 Answers 3


Caveat: This is my understanding, I am not a lawyer.

CC0 is not really a license per se - it is a declaration that you waive copyright in the work and place it in the public domain. From that point anybody can use it for any purpose, with or without attribution, and they owe you nothing.

By contrast, with the other Creative Commons licenses you retain the copyright in the work, and you grant others a license to use it. CC-BY is the most permissive of these licenses, in that the only stipulation placed upon usage is that you are identified as the creator of the dataset. Beyond that, anybody can use it for any purpose. As you'll have noted there are more restrictive CC licenses available as well.

In practice, the only difference between CC0 and CC-BY is whether you want to retain the legal right to be acknowledged as the originator of the data. Since academic integrity would demand that this happens anyway, and since you're unlikely to take somebody to court if they don't do this, it probably makes little practical difference.

If you work for a university or other institution, do make sure you understand who owns the copyright - it may be them, not you, and they may be a lot more fussy about this choice than you are!

  • Thanks, I think that clarifies it a bit. I say "a bit" because my data set is a bit tricky. It's partly data collected by the team on the project (so that's original data and I'd go with CC-BY), but also derived data from other sources for the specific locations (i.e. information from satellites such as vegetation indices). I'd think the latter is probably CC0 because we didn't really 'create' that data - we just downloaded it and tailored it to our site... I like your suggestion of checking with my institution though, I will accept this as an answer.
    – Geraldine
    Sep 5, 2018 at 12:59

CC-0 is considered the best choice for scientific progress because it lowers barriers to reuse.

Dryad has a nice and compelling explanation of why they require CC-0 in their FAQ https://datadryad.org/pages/faq#info-cc0

Here is one excerpt:

CC0 does not exempt those who reuse the data from following community norms for scholarly communication, in particular from citation of the original data authors. On the contrary, by removing unenforceable legal barriers, CC0 facilitates the discovery, reuse, and citation of that data.


According to creativecommons" CC0 enables scientists, educators, artists and other creators and owners of copyright- or database-protected content to waive those interests in their works and thereby place them as completely as possible in the public domain, so that others may freely build upon, enhance and reuse the works for any purposes without restriction under copyright or database law."

As for CC-BY, It requires attribution of the original author. As per wikipedia page Creative Commons license this implies the following:

  1. Include any copyright notices (if applicable).
  2. Cite the author's name, screen name, or user ID, etc.
  3. Cite the work's title or name (if applicable), if such a thing exists.
  4. Cite the specific CC license the work is under.
  5. Mention if the work is a derivative work or adaptation.
  • I'd add a last line, "choose the one you want".
    – Allure
    Sep 4, 2018 at 23:56
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    Note that an academic researcher would still be expected to cite a CC0 dataset in any derivative works. Sep 6, 2018 at 6:11

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