[okfn-discuss] implications of licensing restrictions on ontologies

Jo Walsh jo at frot.org
Wed Apr 11 21:17:26 BST 2007

dear all,

i am back in write-only mode again but wanted to braindump a bit 
about the question of what happens when ontologies are under licensing
constraints specifically noncommercial use, but also attribution.

http://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/ontology/ OS geodata ontologies (e.g.
taxonomical/logical models intended for partial reuse in structured 
data description). They are being released under a CC-NC-BY-SA license. 

What gives if an ontology is licensed for noncommercial use only (and
has an SA clause?)
- If i subclass something in it for my own use does that become a
  'derived work'?
- If i make a data set using its terms does that become subject to the 
  same license constraints e.g. that data cannot be then be subject to
  commercial use (because it depends on the OS ontology?)
- What happens if instead of subclassing i make a direct, exact copy  
  at a different URL and maintain it in parallel. Am i infringing some
  "copyright" on the information stated in a model - an abstract model
  of how towns relate to counties relate to regions doesn't really 
  seem copyrightable. So exactly what is being copyrighted in the
  ontology, if not "only the model available at this URL" (which is
  what the OWL definition implies... 

But when i had a look at it, the RDF itself still states that the model
is Crown Copyright. I pinged a contact at the OS's semantic web group
to ask to fix, and enquire what possible justification there is for
imposing a noncommercial use clause on an OWL ontology...

The geodata database rights question is covered in the Guardian and
goes round the geoblogosphere, that is just great to see.



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