[odc-discuss] Database Contents Licence (formerly the FIL)

Jordan S Hatcher jordan at opencontentlawyer.com
Thu Apr 30 21:14:42 UTC 2009

On 30 Apr 2009, at 18:58, Jonathan Rochkind wrote:

> Okay, phew, that does help a lot. Sorry I got confused between the  
> 'public domain' and 'some rights reserved' options. We need a web  
> page laying this out (or maybe one already exists I forgot about).
> So with "some rights reserved", you have one license for database,  
> and one license for data, right?
With our approach in the ODbL, yes, with the caveat of the contents  
(the data) being homogenous in their rights (so that only once licence  
is needed).

> But with public domain dedication, the same license can be used for  
> a database or for data?


In fact this is directly addressed in the PDDL preamble:

"This document can cover either or both of the database and its  
contents (the data). Because databases can have a wide variety of  
content – not just factual data – rightsholders should use the Open  
Data Commons – Public Domain Dedication & Licence for an entire  
database and its contents only if everything can be placed under the  
terms of this document. Because even factual data can sometimes have  
intellectual property rights, rightsholders should use this licence to  
cover both the database and its factual data when making material  
available under this document; even if it is likely that the data  
would not be covered by copyright or database rights."

> If you have a database that may include _some_ data that you do own  
> (if anyone does; it may be non-ownable of course), and _some_ data  
> that someone else owns (or could own if it's ownable) ... then as  
> long as you can clearly tell which data is which, you could use the  
> PDDL to dedicate just the _data_ you own from that db, right?  Like  
> you could advertise that all data that has a field X in the db set  
> to Y has been dedicated under the PDDL, but other data in the  
> database has not been.

Yes.  Using the PDDL or CC0 or whatever doesn't somehow skip you out  
on the key issue that if you don't own something you can't give it  
away. See Freebase's licensing page for example of one site's approach  
with dealing with multiple licensed content using CC-BY for the  


> In that case... what about the 'database'. Could you use the PDDL to  
> dedicate a _database_ that you created, which contains some records  
> you know someone else owns?  What would that mean?   I don't really  
> understand the difference between legal rights in a 'database' and  
> in 'data' (perhaps because the little law I know is US law, where  
> there isn't much rights in either).

I think it is important to clarify (as you've mentioned this before)  
that databases aren't somehow exempt from copyright in the United  
States.  Selection and arrangement can be worthy of copyright - so  
databases can have copyright if their selection and arrangement meets  
the standards of copyright by being "original" enough. Feist says that  
taking telephone data (factual data) and arranging it in alphabetical  
order (as you normally would in a phone book) is not "original" enough  
to be worthy of copyright.

A really simple example of a copyright for selection and arrangement  
is a mix tape.  Putting together a mix tape can mean a copyright for  
the mix tape creator for their selection and arrangement of songs, but  
that doesn't mean that they have a copyright over the songs they  
selected and arranged.

Help for making the Contents/Database distinction as well as several  
of the other issues is built into the licences.  See for example, 2.2  
in the ODbL RC

"Copyright law varies between jurisdictions, but is likely to cover:  
the Database model or schema, which is the structure, arrangement, and  
organisation of the Database, and can also include the Database tables  
and table indexes; the data entry and output sheets; and the Field  
names of Contents stored in the Database;"

Here is some background I've produced:

=Background of why we have the DbCL/FIL

The idea of the separate "Contents" licence is to cover any  
copyrightable material held within the database.  The ODbL works by  
concentrating on the database as a whole and not the actual contents  
(the data) within the database.  This is so it can work, for example,  
with projects like Freebase that use both GFDL and other licensed  
content within the database.  It's also so that the ODbL could be  
applied to a much simpler use case, such as a database of Flickr  
images with different licences (CC-BY and CC-BY-SA, for example).

The problem then becomes for databases consisting of primarily factual  
information (what we commonly think of as data), there may be some  
copyrightable content. Think of a database with lots of facts about  
the weather that also contains a text field with the field name "daily  
comment", where a weather researcher writes a one sentence line about  
the weather that day.

The field name is part of the ODbL, the text in that field is not.

The text in the field potentially has copyright. The factual data held  
in the rest of the database (all of the other "Contents") will not  
have copyright.

When making use of the weather database, under the ODbL, you will also  
be copying, distributing, etc the potentially copyrightable text in  
the text field (the weather researcher's daily weather line).  So the  
issue becomes making sure those rights are granted as well.

The DbCL catches the other half of the Database/Contents combo so that  
all the rights over a single db file are taken care of.



> Jonathan
> Jordan S Hatcher wrote:
>> On 30 Apr 2009, at 17:50, Jonathan Rochkind wrote:
>>> And wait, I just realized I had acronym confusion too.
>>> How does the PDDL fit into this all?  Has it been superseded by  
>>> the  ODbL or the DbCL?  Or is it an alternate to one, or to both?
>> The PDDL is Public Domain -- no rights over the data/database.   
>> You  give them up.  A bit like the Python sketch with the parrot.
>> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dead_Parrot>
>> The ODbL is copyleft for databases.  Legal code to put some   
>> restrictions around a database and saying that if you use this and   
>> make changes, you have to release your changes under the ODbL too.   
>> It's in development but about to be released.  It has a companion  
>> for  the content of the database (now) called the DbCL.
>>> So confused. Some people are already (trying) to use the PDDL to   
>>> license actual database/data.  I think it's likely they are using  
>>> it  incorrectly.  This is very confusing.
>> They should be using the PDDL for actual databases/data, if they  
>> want  to dedicate those to the public domain! It's been out for  
>> over a  year.  Like any licence (or if you prefer calling it a  
>> "legal tool  dedicating work to the public domain"), you can only  
>> license/dedicate  what you own.
>> Let me know if this helps.
>> ~Jordan
>>> Jonathan
>>> Jonathan Rochkind wrote:
>>>> That helps, thanks Jordan.
>>>> Can you ODbL the database, even if some of the data in the  
>>>> database  may have third-parties with rights to it in various  
>>>> jurisdictions?
>>>> I think "early adopters" of this suite of stuff for library   
>>>> bibliographic data may currently not be using them correctly.   
>>>> Guidance is desperately needed.
>>>> Jonathan
>>>> Jordan S Hatcher wrote:
>>>>> On 30 Apr 2009, at 16:19, Anders Söderbäck wrote:
>>>>>> Anyway, when licensing library data, I guess you could use  
>>>>>> both  the  ODbL and the DbCL together, just to be safe.
>>>>> I'll try to address your other points when I can, but this one  
>>>>> I   wanted to clarify immediately.
>>>>> The DbCL is meant to be used only with the ODbL.
>>>>> The ODbL will cover the Database.  The DbCL will cover the   
>>>>> contents of  that database.
>>>>> It's the difference between a text field name (licensed under  
>>>>> the  ODbL  as part of the database) and the text in the field  
>>>>> (licensed  under the  DbCL).
>>>>> ~Jordan
>>>>> ____
>>>>> Mr. Jordan S Hatcher, JD, LLM
>>>>> jordan [at] opencontentlawyer dot com
>>>>> More details at:
>>>>> <http://www.jordanhatcher.com>
>>>>> Open Data at:
>>>>> <http://www.opendatacommons.org>
>>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>>> odc-discuss mailing list
>>>>> odc-discuss at lists.okfn.org
>>>>> http://lists.okfn.org/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/odc-discuss
>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>> odc-discuss mailing list
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>> ____
>> Mr. Jordan S Hatcher, JD, LLM
>> jordan [at] opencontentlawyer dot com
>> More details at:
>> <http://www.jordanhatcher.com>
>> Open Data at:
>> <http://www.opendatacommons.org>

Mr. Jordan S Hatcher, JD, LLM

jordan [at] opencontentlawyer dot com

More details at:

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