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February 02, 2010

Data.gov.uk, Creative Commons and the public domain

In a blog post at Creative Commons, UK moves towards opening government data, Jane Park notes that the UK Government have taken a significant step towards the use of Creative Commons licences by making the terms and conditions for the data.gov.uk website compatible with CC-BY 3.0:

In a step towards openness, the UK has opened up its data to be interoperable with the Attribution Only license (CC BY). The National Archives, a department responsible for “setting standards and supporting innovation in information and records management across the UK,” has realigned the terms and conditions of data.gov.uk to accommodate this shift. Data.gov.uk is “an online point of access for government-held non-personal data.” All content on the site is now available for reuse under CC BY. This step expresses the UK’s commitment to opening its data, as they work towards a Creative Commons model that is more open than their former Click-Use Licenses.

This feels like a very significant move - and one that I hadn't fully appreciated in the recent buzz around data.gov.uk.

Jane Park ends her piece by suggesting that "the UK as well as other governments move in the future towards even fuller openness and the preferred standard for open data via CC Zero". Indeed, I'm left wondering about the current move towards CC-BY in relation to the work undertaken a while back by Talis to develop the Open Data Commons Public Domain Dedication and Licence.

As Ian Davis of Talis says, Linked Data and the Public Domain:

In general factual data does not convey any copyrights, but it may be subject to other rights such as trade mark or, in many jurisdictions, database right. Because factual data is not usually subject to copyright, the standard Creative Commons licenses are not applicable: you can’t grant the exclusive right to copy the facts if that right isn’t yours to give. It also means you cannot add conditions such as share-alike.

He suggests instead that waivers (of which CC Zero and the Public Domain Dedication and License (PDDL) are examples) are a better approach:

Waivers, on the other hand, are a voluntary relinquishment of a right. If you waive your exclusive copyright over a work then you are explictly allowing other people to copy it and you will have no claim over their use of it in that way. It gives users of your work huge freedom and confidence that they will not be persued for license fees in the future.

Ian Davis' post gives detailed technical information about how such waivers can be used.

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