Common types of data sharing agreements

When setting up an agreement for sharing data, it is important to ensure that rights to access, use and share data are clear. This clarity comes from having explicit licences and agreements for the use of third-party content, and understanding relevant legal restrictions or permissions. There are four common ways to provide this clarity: licences, data sharing agreements, terms and conditions, and codes of conduct, as described below. This play focuses on licences and data sharing agreements.


A licence describes the ways that data can be used without any of the organisations involved having to enter into a formal agreement. Licences are best used for open and public data. A licence will tell you whether you can:

  • republish the content or data on your own website

  • derive new content or data from it

  • make money by selling products that use it

  • republish it while charging a fee for access.

Unless you have a licence, data may be ‘publicly available’, but users will not have permission to access, use or share it under copyright or database laws.

Data sharing agreements

Data sharing agreements are signed by the organisations sharing and receiving data. They describe the data to be shared, the purpose(s) of the data sharing and how the data can be used, how, when, where and for how long the data will be shared, and the roles and responsibilities of the parties. Data sharing agreements are most useful when organisations, of any kind, are sharing sensitive data. A contract with detailed, binding requirements helps make sure everyone is clear on their obligations.

Terms and conditions

Terms and conditions, or ‘terms of use’, are a set of rules that describe how a user can use a service. A good set of terms and conditions will clearly and separately identify those rules that relate to a user's use of the service (for example how often the user can use it) from those rules that relate to the data that may be provided or made accessible to a user in connection with the service.

Codes of conduct

Codes of conduct have emerged as an agreement to set common standards for data sharing contracts and to demonstrate compliance with applicable legal standards. Codes of conduct may provide principles that the signatories/subscribers/members agree to apply in their contracts.

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