Legal aspects of data

Last changed: 13 October 2022

Please note that the text on this page is under review.

Data cannot be owned. However, their use and management are regulated in various ways that may be reminiscent of ownership. It is important to ensure whether and how the data sets in question are regulated in the context of both use and access.

Database rights

Data can be protected by database rights, but in that case, it is the database - the compilation - that is protected, not individual data.


Data may be included in publications protected by copyright. In this respect, SLU's intellectual property policy states that the individual researcher has the copyright to material produced in the context of his/her duties, but that SLU has the right to use it.


Data can be regulated contractually as regards use and management. The most common example is collaborative research, where, for example, it may be stated that "party XYZ owns the results (the data)". This does not mean that party XYZ owns the data, but that the party has rights vis-a-vis the other parties which in other contexts usually follow with ownership (such as the right to use the data in further research or commercially, the right to publish them, archive them, etc.).


Confidentiality can be agreed upon, but SLU is obliged to disclose public documents if there is no support in the Public Access to Information and Secrecy Act for withholding them. There is such support for not disclosing data processed in collaborative and contract research projects. Any agreement requiring SLU not to share information shall always include a clause stating: "If there is an obligation to disclose information under law or pursuant to a court/public authority order, this shall take precedence over the obligation of confidentiality under this agreement." However, confidentiality does not bind anyone other than the parties to the agreement. Researchers (who are not parties to agreements entered into by SLU) are nevertheless bound by signing so-called researcher concessions.
Trade secrets

Data may be protected under the Trade Secrets Act (2018:558). However, the conditions for this are very specific and seldom arise in practice.

Public law

The rights and obligations listed above may be restricted by public law rules such as the University's obligation to disclose public documents, the so-called PSI (public sector information) rules on the re-use of public-sector documents and archives legislation.
These rules must be considered when research agreements are concluded. For example, an agreement containing confidentiality provisions must make exception for the possibility that SLU may be obliged to disclose documents in accordance with public access legislation. It should indicate the "ownership" of the data, as well as whether any "non-owner" party has a specific management responsibility for the data (how they are to be stored and made available). To the extent that a research funding body has requirements regarding how data within a project are to be stored and made available, the funder's requirements shall be followed, unless they conflict with SLU's public law obligations such as the Archives Act. In such cases, SLU shall not conclude the agreement in question.

Furthermore, SLU's own policy governs - secondarily - how SLU handles its research and environmental monitoring and assessment data. SLU and its researchers and data producers must also follow accepted principles of good research practice.

Further information and support regarding data licensing

For information regarding agreements or the legal aspects of data management, please contact


The Legal Affairs Unit can be reached at

For questions on personal data, GDPR and related issues, please contact

Personal data breaches must be reported through the IA system.