[od-discuss] City of Calgary Open Data License Approval Request

Kent Mewhort kent at openissues.ca
Tue Mar 19 07:51:28 UTC 2013

Walter, I disagree that the "the question is not why the City of Calgary 
finds it necessary to have a special license but whether the existing 
license is acceptable as is, can be made open with minor modification, 
or should be abandoned in favour of what is currently being 
recommended".  Perhaps this is technically true as per the current OD 
procedure and the definition itself, but I think this may need to change.

Sooner or later, we'll need to have some type of policy to deal with 
licence proliferation.  The growing list 
<http://clip.cippic.ca/license-list.php?cat=Canadian> (already in the 
dozens) of municipalities and other government bodies in Canada who are 
coming up with their own custom licences is a disconcerting and 
increasingly problematic trend.  The Calgary licence is just one of many 
Canadian municipal data licences that could easily be replaced with a 
suitable standard licence.  It's also likely the approval of one will 
just open a flood gate of every other city in Canada requesting similar 

The OSI's report on licence proliferation 
<http://opensource.org/proliferation-report> could be a good starting 
point for a policy here, and their justification hits the nail on the head:
"While it might at first sight not seem appropriate for the popularity 
of a license to be significant in categorizing it, popular and 
long-established licenses have an important thing going for them: the 
existence of an established interpretive tradition and a well-developed 
set of expectations about correct behavior with respect to them. This is 
significant in reducing confusion and (especially in common-law 
countries) is even likely to condition judicial interpretation of the 

These non-reusable licences, such as the one the City of Calgary is 
using, are typically called "vanity licences" because they're akin to 
vanity licence plates: there's no real justification for them other than 
the branding of one's own name into the licence and a feeling of control 
over the labels and text.  I'd like to see much more justification for 
the special needs of the City of Calgary justifying a special licence.

In fact, overall, I'd suggest that a good procedural policy would be a 
reverse burden that requires anyone requesting a licence review to 
justify why CC, ODC, or, at the very least, national government 
licences, are not a suitable fit.  Even without having a strict 
requirement for a licence to differ, a procedural step of needing to 
adequately justify the differences will at least encourage licencors to 
look at, and better consider, these existing options.


On 13-03-18 08:21 PM, Simbirski, Walter wrote:
> Hi Andrew,
> Thanks for your response.
> In order to understand why City of Calgary would find it necessary to 
> have a special license  it should be noted that the current City of 
> Calgary license is well over a year old, which may not seem very old 
> but it predates some of the other licenses. So the question is not why 
> the City of Calgary finds it necessary to have a special license but 
> whether the existing license is acceptable as is, can be made open 
> with minor modification, or should be abandoned in favour of what is 
> currently being recommended. We are currently undergoing what should 
> be a major overhaul of our Open Data Catalogue and reviewing all 
> aspects of the catalogue including the license.
> With that in mind I would answer your questions as follows:
> 1.Limiting the liability of the City would be a simpler and better -- 
> agreed.
> 2.The "any lawful use" clause is to make it clear that the City of 
> Calgary does not endorse the use of the data in a manner that would be 
> deemed unlawful. The issue of jurisdiction may be problematic but we 
> felt this was less restrictive than a clause such as, "You must not 
> distort, mutilate, modify or take other derogatory action in relation 
> to the Work which would be prejudicial to the Original Author's honor 
> or reputation", that is part of the current Creative Commons License 
> Legal Code (section 4.c 
>  http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/legalcode ).  We did not 
> want to be viewed as limiting the user's right to criticize the City 
> of Calgary.
> 3.This is actually two issues -- the first being that the user would 
> be bound by later changes to the license and I agree that this should 
> be replaced with a statement granting perpetual use under the license 
> applied at the time of download. The second issue is the one of 
> attribution and, again, it relates the Creative Commons legal 
> statement identified in item 2 -- we felt that we would not restrict 
> users from using the data in a manner that might be prejudicial to the 
> City's honor or reputation, provided such use was lawful in nature, 
>  but we also didn't want it to appear that the City was endorsing 
> products that could be viewed as immoral or as a conflict of interest 
> even though they may be lawful in nature.
> 4.Agreed. No such restriction exists with any data sets available 
> today but we felt that in the future such data sets could be  made 
> available directly or indirectly through the Open Data Catalogue. One 
> of the reasons for this exercise is to obtain permission to use the 
> OKFN's OPEN DATA button which would provide a readily identifiable 
> means of distinguishing truly open data sets from those which may have 
> restrictions.
> With respect to your statement:
> [2] Note that CC-BY 3.0 actually allows the licensor to make the 
> attribution optional, if that is what you want.  It also has 
> provisions about what to do if there would be a lengthy list of 
> attributions in a "collection".
> Sorry -- I'm not seeing that in the CC license. I'm not sure what I'm 
> missing.
> Again -- Thanks for taking the time to respond.
> Walter

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.okfn.org/pipermail/od-discuss/attachments/20130319/f4c9016d/attachment.html>

More information about the od-discuss mailing list