Grey literature, in a nutshell, are all kinds of publications that - as far as I understand - are not properly published. This includes mainly reports of institutions or companies, or manuals, personal correspondance, ... The aspect I am focussing on is this:

Grey literature often has no proper license statement attached to it, making it unclear whether, and to what extent its contents may be cited, reproduced or shared.

When working with data from various sources, a similar problem can occur. I tentatively introduced the term grey data for that, but I would like to know: Are you aware of a more common term for this kind of data without clear publication status/usage rights?

Edit (trying to clarify): I am not looking for a in any sense legally "correct" term, but for a phrase that conveys the idea that between open data and confidential data there is a large spectrum of data that is available/released/.., but without an easily recognisable or ambiguous legal status (at least for a legal layperson). One example: the German Federal Network Agency (BNetzA) has been releasing a list of installed power plant capacity on their homepage. However, there is no statement attached for which purposes and under which conditions this dataset may or may not be used. Only through finding its additional release on govdata.de one can find a clear usage licence (here: DL-DE BY).

  • The rights to the types of documents you've cited will vary by jurisdiction. You cannot assume the rights are unclear because you don't happen to know what they are, or because the document doesn't spell them out.. The same is true of data. You're getting the documents and data from a source.
    – TimR
    Jul 1, 2015 at 12:31
  • 3
    While couched as a plea for a term, this is really a legal question with various answers depending on both type of material, type of source and jurisdiction, as pointed out by @TimRomano
    – bib
    Jul 1, 2015 at 13:44
  • 1
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because is a legal question
    – Fattie
    Jul 1, 2015 at 16:14
  • no eed to comment, just vote to close
    – Fattie
    Jul 1, 2015 at 16:14

1 Answer 1


A quick Google for "grey data" seems to indicate that the term is fairly widely used, but it's not clear whether it is exactly equivalent to grey literature, which tends to mean unpublished products of research, whereas 'grey data' seems to mean unpublished, unregulated, unstructured, or even missing data from any field.

It's not clear whether the term grey literature encompasses grey data as well.

This blogpost describes 'grey data' as unregulated and unstructured data.

Grey data may also be something to do with:

Grey System Theory: A theory proposed to tackle the problems of uncertainty and missing information.

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