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

Rufus Pollock rufus.pollock at okfn.org
Fri May 1 11:06:11 UTC 2009

2009/4/30 Jonathan Rochkind <rochkind at jhu.edu>:
> Huh, I know you can't give me legal advance, but you think it's
> potentially reasonable to use CC-BY to cover "database rights", if not

IANAL: but no CC-BY (and CC BY-SA) are not suitable for database
rights. That is why the ODbL has been drafted.

> "data rights"?  I had been thinking that CC-BY was equally inapplicable
> to 'data rights' or 'database rights'. But I guess I may not have been
> thinking clearly.

What do you mean by "data rights"? I'm generally in favour of
deprecating the term "data" in these discussions because it tends to
cause confusion. For example when you say data do we mean:

1. An individual piece (or small enough set so as not to merit any
rights) factual information e.g. boiling point of a liquid.

2. Some material (but not the collection), perhaps including text of
photographs which have their own individual copyrights.

3. A "Database": i.e. a collection of material arranged in a
systematic or methodical way and individually accessible by electronic
or other means ...

Usually when we people say data we really mean something like 1 or 3.
In which case the answer to your question is definitely no CC-BY is
not right. But at other times data can mean the some "copyright
"Contents" of the DB which  which as discussed previously in this
thread might be appropriately licensed using a CC-BY.

> So the preamble to PDDL suggests that it's NOT applicable to
> hetereogenous databases? Or just that you can't apply it to the ENTIRE
> database if it's hetereogenous?

The 2nd one I believe. The PDDL was precisly set up so it can be
applied to the DB alone (heterogeneous cases) but also to the DB +
Contents when that is possible.

> So if I have a hetereogenous database, and want to release the 'database
> rights' under as broad legal use as possibe (up to public domain
> dedication, if possible), and I want to release the subset of the
> hetereogenous data that DOES 'belong' to me under as generous rights as
> possible (again including public domain) -- how do I do this?  Can I use

You'd say: The database together with this part of the Contents
{specify what it is} is licensed under the PDDL. This other part of
the contents is licensed under this other license (or, if you don't
control that, you'd say that instead).

I'd suggest looking at the Freebase example.

> the PDDL, if I'm very clear about what data in the db is covered by the

Again I'd avoid "data" here and say "Contents".

> PDDL and what isn't?  And I can I still use the PDDL for the "database
> rights" of the aggregate database? Or do I have to use something else to

Yes you can.

> either license or public-domain-release the "database rights" of a
> hetereogenous db?
> What's the best way to do this to cover as many jurisdictions as
> possible?  Or is this hetereogenous database case not one that ODC is
> currently trying to address?

We are precisely trying to address the heterogeneous and homogeneous
cases with these licenses which is why we have made an effort to
distinguish the "Database" and the "Contents".

To summarize:

1. For homogenous DB (No need to distinguish "Database" + "Contents")

Share-Alike: Use Open Database License (ODbL) + Database Contents
License (DbCL) (or some other suitable contents license of your

Public domain: Use Public Domain Dedication and License (PDDL)

2. For non-homogenous DB (so he

Share-alike: use ODbL for Database qua Database + whatever license you
wish/can for Contents

Public domain: use PDDL for Database qua Database + whatever license
you wish/can for Contents.

> Thanks for the clarification, it's been extremely helpful.

Glad to hear! The Database/Contents distinction and its importance was
something I only really began to grok really properly quite recently.


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