[open-science] Big and open data – who should bear data transfer costs?

P Kishor punk.kish at gmail.com
Sat May 17 16:26:54 UTC 2014

see inline below.

On Sat, May 17, 2014 at 8:53 AM, Lukasz Bolikowski
<l.bolikowski at icm.edu.pl>wrote:

> On 05/17/2014 05:36 PM, P Kishor wrote:
>> I am missing something. "Open" has nothing to do with Amazon. Whether or
>> not something is open (the way we think of open here) is decided by the
>> person who has the rights to do so. Remember, you can only relinquish
>> the rights you have, so if you create something, and you have rights in
>> it, you can give those rights away, thereby making that thing open. You
>> can't just divine something made by someone else to be open.
> Dear Puneet,
> Let me clarify my concerns.  Let's say I'm publishing a data set on CC-0,
> but the only way in which I am willing to distribute it is through a
> for-profit company which may or may not charge way too much for downloads,

First, it is irrelevant how you are "willing" to distribute the dataset. It
is your dataset, your prerogative; do what you want. Who am I to judge what
your constraints are. Maybe your institution forces you to use AWS. Maybe
not using AWS will put an undue burden on you because doing so is the
easiest for you, and anything else will be too cumbersome. I, the
downloader, have no knowledge of the constraints within which you work, so
I can't/shouldn't judge you.

However, as pointed out earlier, once you have put the dataset out there,
anyone can take it and do whatever they want with it as long as they
respect the permissions you have given them. In the case of CC0 (note, no
dash *), they can do anything with that data, including charge for it. Cost
of disseminating has nothing to do with the legal permissions.

Note, this is different from <nameless publisher> charging for OA articles.
If the publication of the OA articles have been paid for, ostensibly by
APC, then reasonable dissemination would be expected to be a part of the
deal. Charging the enduser for downloading again would be double-dipping.
On the other hand, if the publication costs do not include dissemination
costs, then charging for downloads could be justified. Of course, sorting
all this out would be a nasty hairball, so for practical purposes it would
be best to create a simple, easy-to-understand-and-implement policy. A side
effect of such a policy might be less than extraordinary profits, but that
may be made up in both increased dissemination and goodwill.

> but nobody outside the company has means of verifying that. Is the data
> set open?

Verifying what? I am assuming you, the provider of the dataset, you who put
it on AWS, know how much you are going to be charged for it. I am also
going to assume that me, the downloader, knows how much my bandwidth is
going to cost me. If, you are charging me an entry fee to access the data,
I am going to assume that I will know that as well, and can choose to pay
it or not pay it (in which case, I don't get access to your dataset from
you). Of course, once I have paid it, I can do whatever I want to with that
CC0 dataset, including give it away for free if I want to do so. And,
needless to say, I can get that dataset from someone else who may have paid
for it but has now decided to redistribute it for free. Important to note:
All this giving and taking is being done within the confines of the
permissions you gave in the first place. In the case of CC0, you
relinquished all your rights, so the data are free now. Ironically, that
includes being able to charge for it.

> In some sense, the data set is open (openness, as you wrote, may be
> understood as a property of a data set, not of the conduit).
> However, according to the definition shown by Peter (
> http://opendefinition.org/od/), which puts the requirement of "reasonable
> reproduction cost", the data set will not be open *if* the hypothetical
> company charges too much for the transfers.

"Too much" is a relative term. If you charge me $20 for something, I may
kvetch about it, but I can afford it. I have, on the other hand, many
friends and colleagues in several developing countries, esp. those working
for small NGOs, for whom twenty bucks would be onerous.

> I think our misunderstanding stemmed from the fact that we don't, in fact,
> have a commonly accepted definition of openness.  Would you agree?

Yes and no. I would agree that there is no natural definition of open. But,
there is indeed a generally accepted and understood definition of open, and
if we play by its rules, more or less, we will all contribute to a better
society. There will always be edge-cases, and they will be decided on a
case-by-case basis. It is definitely helpful to separate the legal
definition of open with the economic definition of free.

* note on the correct use of dashes when referring to CC licenses


see http://creativecommons.org/licenses/

Puneet Kishor
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