[odc-discuss] Licensing of produced works from an ODbL database

Robert Whittaker (ODC lists) robert.whittaker+odc at gmail.com
Wed Nov 7 18:21:21 UTC 2012

On 4 November 2012 21:21, Anthony <osm at inbox.org> wrote:
> A license is, by definition, a grant of permission to do something.  If you
> don't accept the license, then your rights are limited to the exceptions to
> database right / copyright which are granted by law.

Yes, but if you're told you can use something under license X, you
could reasonably have the expectation that there wouldn't be any
additional restrictions on what you can do.

Anyway, if I've understand what you're saying correctly, the situation
is roughly this:

1/ Users are free to license the copyright in any Produced Works from
an ODbL database to others under any license they wish, provided that
the license:

(a) Is compatible with whatever content license the ODbL database uses
for the contents that went in to making the Produced Work.

(b) Ensures that the ODbL attribution text remains on any re-uses of
the work (in order to comply with a conservative reading of ODbL 4.3).

(And obviously that the user must also comply with the other terms of
the ODbL regarding attribution and making available any derivative
databases / added data / transformation algorithms.)

2/ However, any database rights in the Produced Work cannot be so
licensed, and the ODbL still applies to them. So anyone else publicly
using the Produced Work or any derivatives thereof needs to be bound
by the ODbL. In particular, they must comply with 4.3 and 4.6 if they
publicly use a Produced Work.

Given point 2, I think it is (at a minimum) rather misleading for
someone to simply state that a Produced Work can be re-used under a
copyright license such as CC-By. A reasonable person might assume that
as long as they comply with the CC-By terms, they can then do what
they want with the Produced Work. But there are additional
restrictions imposed by the database rights in point 2, which might
not be expected.  (In fact, it could be argued that the receiver of
the produced work would need to formally agree to the ODbL before they
could use the produced work themselves, so does that mean that the
person offering the produced work needs to include this as a term /
requirement in whatever license they offer the Produced work under?).

I've seen the argument before (in the context of preventing people
from reverse engineering the data in produced works) that this issue
is equivalent to a photograph under CC-By, where the recipient can
re-use the photograph under CC-By, but doesn't rights get to use any
IP in the objects in the photograph. Whilst this is the same problem
of additional restrictions, the distinction between rights to use the
image and rights over the subject matter of the image is much clearer
(and much more likely to be understood by the average person) for a
photograph of a real-life object, than it is for (say) a map tile. The
former is clearly a photograph of an object, and the artistry of the
photograph is separate from the IP in the object. It's much less
obvious that the map tile needs to be thought of as an image of some
data from a database, where the artistry in the image is separate form
the IP in the underlying data.

Assuming this interpretation is roughly correct, I think it would be
useful if something explaining my points 1 and 2 could be added to the
license FAQ at http://opendatacommons.org/faq/licenses/ to help other
ODbL users and those wanting to re-use Produced Works understand what
they can and can't do.

Best wishes,


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