I was playing around with some data that I got with a license not to use the data in this manner on my own time. I found some results that are better than those published in my field in a non-trivial manner. Would this be publishable if I don't release the data itself (ie. I say if one uses some of this type of data, where it's clear that it's highly unlikely I got access to that type of data, one can use method ABC, detailed in this paper, to get a x% improvement)?

I can ask my advisor, but I don't think I want to bring up something too unethical and mar the relationship.

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    I have a feeling publishability is not the problem here: if OP writes a paper being fully honest about what they've done and submits it, they'll have a good chance of getting referees who are sympathetic to violating "you may not benchmark, reverse engineer, disassemble, or decompile"-type licence conditions. The problem is, once it's published, the licensor will have legal options for retaliating, and OP and their advisor need to be clear what those options are and whether they're willing to risk it. Oct 6, 2023 at 11:23

1 Answer 1


Do you mean you got a license for another purpose and there is no mention of using the data for research purposes or that the license specifically prohibits use in some way? I think that makes a difference. Either way though, if you use data you don't have the rights to, you're setting yourself up for trouble.

Even if you don't release the data, you will probably be expected to explain where you got it. And that will lead down a rabbit hole that will ultimately end in journals rejecting the paper because of concerns over copyright/licensing.

There isn't anything unethical about the question though. Just talk to your advisor. They likely know more about your field and specific situation. It's their job to guide you through things like this. They may be able to help you get the proper permissions for the data or they may determine that you actually can use the data. Or they may just say "no" and you can search for a more appropriate data set to develop your research.

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    Would it be ok to say "I did do this without copyright on my own time just for fun (because realistically no one cares if someone downloads/uses your data without copyright if they don't do anything with this), however we have really good results. Can we do something about this?"
    – olivarb
    Oct 6, 2023 at 6:26
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    Sure. I don't think your advisor would be upset by that. If the data is available to download (like you didn't steal it) thats seems totally reasonable.
    – sErISaNo
    Oct 6, 2023 at 7:11

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