[odc-discuss] Open licensing for reference data

George Moody george at MIT.EDU
Mon Nov 8 23:24:21 UTC 2010

I'm curious to know if there is an interest in an ODC-BY or ODbL variant that
omits the "free to adapt" provision.  Such a license would permit data to be
redistributed freely in unmodified form, but not in modified form unless it is
clear that modifications have been made.

Some of our freely available data sets have been in use for 20 to 30 years, and
there is a large literature of published analyses of them that makes them
particularly valuable.  It's critically important, though, that any researcher
who uses them should know that he or she has a complete and unaltered copy of
the data that were used in previous studies, and not a version that has been
modified, augmented, or abridged.  Otherwise, their analyses are not comparable
and others may not be able to reproduce them.

I would guess that the same considerations would apply to almost any collection
of experimental data;  the point of sharing such data is to make it possible
for others to study them without having to repeat the entire experiment.
Our data are digitized physiologic signals and time series, but there must be
many others sharing data that have value precisely because they are complete
and accurate copies of a known original (even if that original may be
flawed). Examples might include astronomical or meteorological observations,
historical polls, species surveys -- it's not hard to think of many more.

If I've misunderstood the "free to adapt" provision, I would be grateful if
someone can clarify it.  If not, it would be useful to have a show of virtual
hands to gauge interest in an open license for reference data that should not
be altered.

Any suggestions are welcome!

George B. Moody
Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology
MIT Room E25-505A
Cambridge, MA 02139 USA

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