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 ibm.com.

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.

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