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

Simbirski, Walter Walter.Simbirski at calgary.ca
Tue Mar 19 15:44:24 UTC 2013

Hi Kent,

I agree that the current OD procedure should change for all the reasons you give and I would certainly support such a move.

If the City of Calgary were creating a new licence  it would be counterproductive to create a "vanity licence" and then ask for a review but you are assuming that the CC licences are "long-established" in comparison to the City of Calgary licence. The City of Calgary licence was created in 2010 and modified in 2011 based on what was happening in the Open Data world at the time. When the licence was created (and modified) the CC licences were not in the same state they are in today and there was much public discussion around alternate Open Data licences as well.  The City of Calgary licence incorporated much of what was in existence but there were no clear leaders at that time.

You are also assuming that it is an easy matter for us to replace the existing license with one that is popular and long-established but that is not the case. This will require review and approval by the City's legal and intellectual property departments and this can be a time consuming process. In order to begin this process it will be helpful to know what elements of our existing licence are unacceptable.

I am also not sure why you call our existing licence "non-reusable". The reference you site states: "Licenses in this group are specific to their authors and cannot be reused by others. Many, but not all, of these licenses fall into the category of vanity licenses". I think that the licence could be used by any government body simply by substituting the legal entity and jurisdiction.



From: od-discuss-bounces at lists.okfn.org [mailto:od-discuss-bounces at lists.okfn.org] On Behalf Of Kent Mewhort
Sent: 2013 March 19 1:51 AM
To: 'od-discuss at lists.okfn.org'
Cc: Simbirski, Walter
Subject: Re: [od-discuss] City of Calgary Open Data License Approval Request

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 approval.

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 licenses."

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.


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