Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Monday, April 02, 2007

For data, public domain is better than CC license

Jo Walsh, Copyright not applicable to geodata?  Open Knowledge Foundation weblog, April 1, 2007.  Excerpt:

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve heard new questions and opinions about open licensing of geographic information, coming from several different directions. Specifically:

  • Local and regional authorities in Italy and in New Zealand among others, have been looking into whether it is appropriate to use a Creative Commons license for geodata.
  • Richard Fairhurst of the OpenStreetmap project are attempting to find out whether database right, rather than CC-style copyright, is a potential option for open licensing its data.
  • Chris Holmes, having submitted repackaged public domain data with service configurations, the lot under a CC-SA license, to the OSGeo geodata repository, has been seeking informal legal advice from Science Commons, the data licensing arm of Creative Commons.

Chris’s email to the osgeo/geodata list offers some context and the conclusion that copyright-based licenses are inapplicable to geographic information in its state as a “collection of facts”. CC, by this reading, just does not apply to geographic data (though it may apply to a rendered map as a creative expression of the underlying facts). In using a copyright-based license for open data, we risk imposing constraints that are new and unenforceable.

… the Science Commons initiative is about getting science data more available, which unlike geospatial data is something that traditionally has been available for all, only published papers about the data were under copyright. So they would be very hesitant to create a regime for data licensing that would make it easier for people to put more restrictions on their data. They are launching a ‘facts are free’ campaign soon to get across to the world that one can’t copyright scientific data.

The Science Commons FAQ on databases and copyright goes into more detail on to-CC-or-not-to-CC for “factual” information....

Update. Also see Eric Kansa's further reflections, esp. on the incentives to cite those who discovered or published certain facts, even if the facts themselves are in the public domain.