Panlibus Blog

License for Open Library ?

In my post about the launch of the Open Library, I questioned what licence would cover the data that is contributed.

The question elicited the following in a comment from the Open Library Project’s Aaron Swartz:

Some information provided for promotional purposes by the publisher. Additional information and edits added by users. All contributions are in the public domain. For more information about our data, see how you can help.” We’re hoping to decide on licensing terms in more detail with the help of the community on the lists.

From my, very limited, understanding of copyright “in the public domain” means whoever can do whatever they like with it – probably not what is actually is required.

Coincidentally over on our sister blog, Nodalities, Paul posted this –A good reason to license your ‘open data’ ? – I didn’t prompt him, honest.

The post references Chris Rusbridge, Director of Digital Curation Centre who appears ….

….to back our assertion (eg listen to Rob Styles make his opening statement in the Linked Data panel at WWW2007) that ‘simply’ throwing data out onto the web to be re-used and abused is a bad idea

Even (especially?) if you wish data to be as widely and freely used as possible, it is important to apply an appropriate license.

As Paul goes on to say…

Such licenses make it clear to the scrupulous (who will interpret the absence of explicit permission as “All Rights Reserved”) that reuse is permissible, and can act to prevent the subsequent lock-down of ‘public domain’ data by those who follow.

So I recommend that those behind the Open Library do not put off the choice of licensing for too long.  In my post I recommended the Talis Community Licence as a candidate for consideration.  Paul also referenced it in his post:

The Talis Community License is one example of an explicit Open Data license, and we are working with a number of partners to ‘finish’ this license, rename it, and hand it off for independent upkeep moving forward. As always, I’m happy to discuss this further…

That’s two of us happy to discuss!

Picture by Laughing Squid displayed in Flickr under a Creative Commons License
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2 Responses

  1. Aaron Swartz Says:

    Our position is that the actual catalog data on Open Library consists of uncopyrightable facts and thus is public domain. We certainly aren’t going to assert a copyright on it. The real open question is what copyright to use for descriptions and bios and other longer textual material — should we use GFDL, like Wikipedia, or some more reasonable license?

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