The requirements for neuroinformatics to make a significant impact on neuroscience are not simply technical-the hardware, software, and protocols for collaborative research-they also include the legal and policy frameworks within which projects operate. This is not least because the creation of large collaborative scientific databases amplifies the complicated interactions between proprietary, for-profit R&D and public "open science." In this paper, we draw on experiences from the field of genomics to examine some of the likely consequences of these interactions in neuroscience. Facilitating the widespread sharing of data and tools for neuroscientific research will accelerate the development of neuroinformatics. We propose approaches to overcome the cultural and legal barriers that have slowed these developments to date. We also draw on legal strategies employed by the Free Software community, in suggesting frameworks neuroinformatics might adopt to reinforce the role of public-science databases, and propose a mechanism for identifying and allowing "open science" uses for data whilst still permitting flexible licensing for secondary commercial research.