[open-government] Share-alike

Tim McNamara tim.mcnamara at okfn.org
Mon Sep 19 20:10:38 BST 2011

I'm quite wary of entering this discussion. I wanted to make a few
comments around civility before doing so.

Copyleft is an extremely difficult issue to discuss. Views are often
entrenched and tend reflect long-standing prior beliefs regarding the
nature of personal property rights, the nature of a community and what
it means for something to be a public good. Therefore, we are highly
likely to find people opposing each other in a very deep manner. This
makes it extremely important that any discussion reflects common

Returning to the original question: what are some of the reasons
against copyleft in data? Here are some:

Simpler administration: copyleft in the public sector often means also
including a channel for buying the right to be constrained from
sharing. The cost of implementing and maintaining these billing can
outweigh any potential revenue.

Monitoring is difficult: how will you as a public sector body know
that some third party is not sharing their data? If it is not being
shared, then it is not publicly available knowledge.

Enforcement is extremely difficult & expensive: how would you, as a
public sector body, go about the process of enforcement of the
copyright licence? Do you have a litigation budget allocated for your
open data programme?

Fewer obligations: under copyleft, agencies retain control. They are
therefore responsible for approving any corrections, etc. They may
therefore be liable for negligent errors or omissions. Under a
non-copyleft system, esp. public domain, it's much easier to claim
that there is no control.

Bias against double-taxation: (Assuming a market segmentation/two
tier/freemium model) much government data is produced either a) out of
core revenue, b) industry levies, c) user fees or d) under contract.
The funds gathered for the project should themselves cover the cost of
data delivery.

If there is any interest, I could spend some time adding to and
expanding these points.

Tim McNamara
Open Knowledge Foundation

On 17 September 2011 22:10, Brendan Morley <morb at beagle.com.au> wrote:
> Stef,
> I feel limited in my reply because I'm not clear what your "criteria for
> success" are here.  I expect they are different to mine.
>> i beg to disagree you can in fact be an innovator and honor the SA.
> Agreed, you *can* be an innovator under SA.  But not insisting on SA is a
> greater incentive for innovators / entrepreneurs.
> With SA, innovations tend to only happen as a result of people scratching
> their own itches.
> Without SA, innovations also tend to happen as a result of people seeing the
> opportunity to make some cash.
> As a consumer, I'd prefer to have innovations come thicker and faster, even
> if it means spending more cash to get it earlier.
>> nope, [SA] only keeps the data free and prohibits the privatization of the
>> commons. which i'd say that's not innovation but robbery.
> Making a copy of something is not robbery, we worked that out long ago in
> the debates about music piracy.  A commercial operator can produce a value
> added work without withdrawing CC By material from the commons.
>>> (After all, the
>>> author itself doesn't *have* to SA, only the downstream users!)
>> so the one creating value should not have privileges?
> They can if they want, but the original question here was around the default
> licence a *city* (i.e. government) should release under.  I don't know why a
> city should keep privileges from its citizens, including the option for
> those citizens to commercialise and seek a business opportunity from that
> commercialisation.
>>> depends on liberally licensed works as contributions (i.e. CC By and
>>> public domain), but in turn it also allows full geodata
>>> roundtripping between government-crowd-commercial.
>> how can you ensure roundripping back from commercial to crowd and gov
>> without
>> an SA licence? or do you mean with roundtripping
>> gov-crowd-corporatelockin?
> I used the word "allows", not "ensure".  No, I can't ensure the trip back
> from commercial.  But it is not lockin either.  Commercial operators cannot
> lock-in any IP greater than their own IP.
>>> Other references: http://www.ausgoal.gov.au/the-ausgoal-licence-suite -
>>> "Among those, the Creative Commons Attribution Licence (CC BY) [...]
>>> provides the greatest opportunities for re-use of information"
>> i'd like to see the study that is the foundation for this statement.
> I hope some of my statements above give some illumination.  But others on
> this list may have ready access to chapter and verse.  To me it's simple.
>  The less additional clauses there are to a licence, the less people will be
> scared off by it.
> A more practical example:  Many western governments (at least .au, .us,
> .ca., .uk) cannot re-use contributions into OpenStreetMap (strong SA
> geodata).  Dropping SA allows re-use in this scenario.
> Brendan
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