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Open Licenses: Creative Commons and other options for sharing your work

Balancing the rights of creators and users. Open licenses grant users some permissions to use and distribute a work, permission not granted by the default "all rights reserved" of copyright.

Data and Copyright

In the United States, facts by themselves are not protected by Copyright and most other forms of Intellectual Property. Therefore data that is just a collection of facts is not protectable by U.S. Copyright law. In the U.S. databases as a whole can be protected as a compilation, but that only provides limited protections, and only for the arrangement and selection of factual data.  

In the European Union, the databases are projected by the Database Directive. This act gives additional protections both under copyright and under sui generis (of its own kind) database rights, which protect the time and investment in collecting and verifying the contents of databases. The act restricts: 

  • temporary or permanent reproduction by any means and in any form, in whole or in part;
  • translation, adaptation, arrangement and any other alteration;
  • any form of distribution to the public of the database or of copies thereof, subject to the exhaustion of rights;
  • any communication, display or performance to the public;
  • any reproduction, distribution, communication, display or performance to the public of a translation, adaptation, etc

Data of course can be more than merely factual in nature, for example microscopy images, field notes, photographs, survey data may all be protectable to some degree by Copyright.  

Because legal protection for data varies by nature of the data and the national jurisdiction, it is created and accessed in licensing your data can be important. Leaving your dataset unlicensed creates uncertainty about the use and re-use of your data. Licensing your data explicitly states that your data is open for re-use.

Creative Commons Zero (CCO)

In the U.S. if you want to ensure maximum usability for your data, you can apply a Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license to openly share your dataset worldwide. Creative Commons Zero (CC0) functions as both a waiver and a license. It is intended for dedicating works to the public domain by waiving all copyrights in the work. However, in jurisdictions were that is not allowed, it also functions as a irrevocable, royalty-free, and unconditional license for anyone to use the work for any purpose. You can find additional information about using the CC0 license for data on the Creative Commons wiki.  

Open Data Commons Licenses

The Open Knowledge Foundation, Open Data Commons provides three data licenses that are similar Creative Commons licenses. The advantage of the Open Data Commons licenses is that they have been specifically written by creators and users of data. 

 

Open Data Commons Open Database License (ODbL) 

Permits others to: 

  • To share: To copy, distribute and use the database.
  • To create: To produce works from the database.
  • To adapt: To modify, transform and build upon the database.

So long as the they: 

  • Attribute: You must attribute any public use of the database, or works produced from the database, in the manner specified in the ODbL. For any use or redistribution of the database, or works produced from it, you must make clear to others the license of the database and keep intact any notices on the original database.
  • Share-Alike: If you publicly use any adapted version of this database, or works produced from an adapted database, you must also offer that adapted database under the ODbL.
  • Keep open: If you redistribute the database, or an adapted version of it, then you may use technological measures that restrict the work (such as DRM) as long as you also redistribute a version without such measures.

This license is very similar to the CC-BY-SA license discussed elsewhere 

The Open Data Commons Attribution License  

Permits others to:

  • To share: To copy, distribute and use the database.
  • To create: To produce works from the database.
  • To adapt: To modify, transform and build upon the database.

So long as provide attribution.  

Attribute: You must attribute any public use of the database, or works produced from the database, in the manner specified in the license. For any use or redistribution of the database, or works produced from it, you must make clear to others the license of the database and keep intact any notices on the original database.

This license is like the CC-BY license 

Open Data Commons Public Domain Dedication and License (PDDL) 

Permits others to 

  • To share: To copy, distribute and use the database.
  • To create: To produce works from the database.
  • To adapt: To modify, transform and build upon the database.

Without any other restrictions. Functionally it is the same as the CC0 license and the two can be used interchangeable.