[odc-discuss] An attribution-only version of the open database license

Rufus Pollock rufus.pollock at okfn.org
Wed Nov 18 14:26:17 UTC 2009

2009/11/18 Matt Amos <zerebubuth at gmail.com>:
> On Wed, Nov 18, 2009 at 11:13 AM, Frederik Ramm <frederik at remote.org> wrote:
> so this is really two questions:
> 1. are there some people who would find an ODbL-NC useful?
> 2. should ODC be associating with NC and other "less open" licenses?
> i've been answering the first, you've been answering the second ;-)

Quite right. I think there is no doubt that some people may want NC
licenses but the real question for ODC is what ODC will/should

As you will see from my comments below I think we can meaningfully say
NC restrictions are not "open" and as such I don't think ODC should
provide NC licenses.

It is one of the ironies of Creative Commons that the licenses they
provide don't actually underpin a commons (CC would be better named
License Choice or similar!). Given ODC's name we should really be
striving to support something that really is an "open data commons"


> sure. but there are some who would argue that "SA" licenses are a step
> away from open, and then we just end up having a license holy war.

This isn't about "holy war" but something very practical: license
compatibility and the integrity of the "open" commons. The core of a
"commons" of data (or code) is that one piece of "open" material
contained therein can be freely intermixed with other "open" material.

This interoperability is absolutely key to realizing the main
practical benefits of "openness" which is the ease of use and reuse --
which, in turn, mean more and better stuff getting created and used.

The Open Knowledge/Data Definition (http://opendefinition.org)
functions as a "standard" to ensure interoperability just in the same
way as normal tech standards operate (but in this case for licenses
rather than for a piece of hardware or software). The aim is to ensure
that any license which complies with the definition will be
interoperable with any other such license meaning that data or content
under the one license can be combined with data or content under the
other license.

Share-alike or attribution requirements are allowed within the
definition precisely because they do not break this interoperability
(and may even help promote the commons by ensuring material is "shared
back"). Non-commercial provisions are not permitted because they
fundamentally break the commons, not only through being incompatible
with other licenses but because they overtly discriminate against
particular types of users. (I should emphasize here that the
definition is directly following the line set out in the original open
source definition ...)

Thus, there is a meaningful distinction between attribution and
share-alike requirements and other such as non-commercial (NC), and it
is distinction that merits the description of share-alike licenses as
being open but non-commercial licenses as not being open.

> yes, NC and especially ND are more restrictive, but stating that NC
> licenses aren't open is wrong - they're just not as open. sure, it's

I don't think that is correct.

To reiterate: it is a mistake to view the set of licenses as some
continuous spectrum of 'openness' with PD at one end and full rights
reserved at the other -- with the implication that all licenses in
between are more or less open.

There are significant discontinuities and in particular we can
meaningfully partition the set of licenses into open and not-open
based on a) their interoperability b) the freedom they provide to
*all* persons (and companies) to use, reuse and redistribute.

> annoying that google claim to be releasing data openly, but it's all
> NC and no-compete and a bunch of other stuff. it would be nice to say
> to google - "you can't claim to be open because you don't meet this
> definition". but unfortunately it would probably be difficult to get
> the trademark on the word "open" ;-)

There would be no desire to get a trademark here but I do think we
should be making an effort to have a clear meaning for "open" in
relation to data and content along the lines of
http://opendefinition.org/ -- just as the open source definition has
done for code.



PS: more on some of these points in this blog post from earlier in the
year <http://blog.okfn.org/2009/02/02/open-data-openness-and-licensing/>

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