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Making Your Data Open: A Guide

- May 18, 2009 in News and events, Open Data

We’ve started work on an ultra simple guide to assist people who want to make their data open:

We’ve been asked a lot recently for a simple HOWTO and this guide is one effort to address this.

This is a first draft and we’d really like to hear any feedback people have.

Open Database License (ODbL) v1.0 Release Candidate Available

- April 29, 2009 in Legal, Licenses, News and events, ODdL, Open Data

The Open Database License (ODbL) v1.0 “Release Candidate” is now available at:

This updated version of the license incorporates a whole set of changes arising out of the earlier comments period and the main changes are summarized below.

As the naming suggests, we believe this text is now very close to a “production-ready” 1.0 license. To allow interested individuals and communities time to review the latest set of changes, as well as to provide an opportunity to catch any last minute “bugs”, there will be a 1 week comment period starting today and ending at midnight next Wednesday (6th May). Full details on how to comment can be found on the ODbL home page.

In preparation for the 1.0 release we have also prepared detailed instructions on how to apply the license which can also be found on the ODbL home page. Any feedback on these is also very welcome.

Finally, we’d like to take this opportunity to say a big thank-you to everyone who contributed to that process as well as a special thank-you to Jordan Hatcher, advisory board member and the person primarily responsible, not only for creating the original version of this license, but preparing this latest revision.

Summary of Changes

For the license, specific changes include:

  1. A variety of typos, grammar fixes and minor renaming
  2. Change “Publicly Convey” to “Use” as Trigger for SA
  3. Clarify “Publicly Convey”
  4. Change from “Data” to “Contents” for contents of DB.
  5. Introduction of proxy for specification of compatible licenses
  6. Clarification of what is required when making available of derivatives
  7. Reinstatement of terminated rights if breach ceases
  8. Move “How To Apply” section to website (not strictly part of license)

We have also prepared several new FAQs to address issues that were raised during the comment process, including:

  • Choice of Law
  • Enforceability
  • Confusion
  • Substantial
  • Upgrading (updated)

- December 4, 2008 in Open Data, “the world’s largest database of freely-licensed library
records”, is now beta-testing:

…and they appear to be using the Public Domain Dedication and Licence — Thanks!

As we build up some infrastructure, we will start posting about other users as well (and I know that there are a few others already using it).

New article out | Implementing Open Data: The Open Data Commons Project

- February 22, 2008 in Open Data

“It won’t be long before open access is old hat, taken for granted by a new generation of tools and services that depend on unrestricted access to research literature and data. As those tools and services come along, they will be the hot story. But historians will note that they all depend on open access and that open access was not easily won.” Peter Suber

Free and libre/open source software (F/LOSS) movements have spawned similar solutions in many other contexts, each at differing stages of development. As F/LOSS enters the routine and familiarity of middle age, the open content movement–open source for non-software copyright and best embodied by the work of Creative Commons –has just graduated university and is getting a feel for the world. Even younger is the open data movement, whose legal tools have just started to come online.

And with that, starts a new article I’ve written for the Open Source Business Resource, which is now available in the February issue. Implementing Open Data: The Open Data Commons Project

Many Eyes, social networks for data visualization, and licensing

- January 31, 2008 in Open Data

I just finished listening to the IT Conversations podcast with Fernanda ViĆ©gas and Martin Wattenberg of Many Eyes. Many Eyes is kinda like Facebook meets Youtube but with data visualization thrown in. Users can upload data sets which can be manipulated and visualized by other users. What struck me is that in the whole 37 minutes, they didn’t discuss copyright or licensing at all, and IP isn’t even mentioned in the Many Eyes FAQ. Because Many Eyes is supported by IBM, digging through their terms of use produces a link to a standard assertion of copyright and notice of trade marks for

They have some pretty neat visualizations on here, including the US State of the Union 2008 speech as a tag cloud, a map of the underground economy as a percentage of GDP, a word tree of Alberto Gonzales’s testimony in the Senate, and annual visitors to UK railway stations.

Two issues come up in terms of rights — as this is supposed to be a social site around data, making clear the copyright status of the visualizations and giving users the rights to embed or remix these images would be important. They tangentially mention this in the podcast when the two principal researchers at Many Eyes discuss getting a request to place a visualization up on a website. They should think about making that clear up front.

The second issue is naturally enough, given the nature of the Open Data Commons, the rights associated with the data. Since users upload data, they could ask them to describe what rights the data comes under and then advertise that to the users. Users could also make clear the rights associated with data for datasets that they upload. For public domain data, they could use the Public Domain Dedication and Licence that we have produced. Or, once CCZero has gone live, they could use a CCZero Assertion, which would state that the user believes there to be no IP rights over the data.

The terms of use for uploaders, however, does include the following buried in the T&C’s (when creating an account):

You also agree not to submit anyone else’s copyrightable material to alphaWorks Services unless You obtain written permission of the copyright holder to license the copyrightable material to IBM, consistent with the terms of this Agreement.

But the upload page, in the section “Tell us about your data” doesn’t have a rights area. Though it does ask uploaders to give the source and a URL for the source, which could be useful in double checking the origin of data if you wanted to clear the rights.

Just some food for thought. And while you are there, be sure and check out the Size of Scottish Islands by group visualization.