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ODbL summary now up

- September 12, 2009 in Legal, Licenses

Matt Amos from the Open Street Map License Working Group has very kindly created a plain language summary of the Open Database License.

This summary gives a clear but simple guide to how the database and its contents can be used.

Thanks Matt!

Open Database License (ODbL) v1.0 Release Candidate 2 Available

- June 15, 2009 in Legal, Licenses, News and events, ODdL

The Open Database License (ODbL) v1.0 “Release Candidate 2” is now available at:

As expected there haven’t been many changes from the first Release Candidate. The two main alterations are:

  1. Removal of section 4.7 related to reverse engineering. This may be reintroduced in later versions but has been left out here in order to remove any possible concerns about license compatibility on Produced Works.
  2. Explicit statement that derivative databases used in the creation of Publicly Available Produced Works are also subject to share-alike.

With the completion of this second round of comments we believe this text is now in final “1.0” form. In order 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” we are going to provide a one final, brief, comment period closing on Friday 19th of June at 1200GMT. Full details on how to comment can be found on the ODbL home page.

In preparation for the 1.0 release we have also continued to improve the FAQs as well as providing a new open data guide. Any feedback on these is also very welcome.

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)

New CCZero framework

- February 22, 2008 in Legal, News and events, PDDL

Creative Commons has announced a change in course for CCZero with reference to the approach taken byOpen Data Commons and the Public Domain Dedication and Licence.

Limiting liability in the PDDL

- February 13, 2008 in Legal, PDDL

A comment via personal email and via the discuss list for the Open Data Commons set of legal tools. This is about the Public Domain Dedication & Licence:

Would it be possible to include an indemnification clause for misuse of data, for example when the data is passed on to a third person not bound by the license? The reason is that the disclaimer only binds the person downloading the data from the data source. If that person passes the data on to a third party, all warranty disclaimers become unenforceable because that third party did not agree to them (and the license is not passed on to the third party because it is not a “copyleft”-type license due to the public domain dedication). Are there any other legal instruments to protect the data provider against liability and lawsuits stemming from the data (imagine that the data has been modified down the road and is not accurate anymore)?

This is an interesting idea, and one that I suspect that attorneys reviewing the PDDL for use by a particular data provider will be interested  in  hearing more about. But just to be clear for all the readers, I’d like to give a few illustrations.

An indemnification clause states that you will pay someone you have a relationship with for the claims of third parties. In the context of the PDDL and the above suggestion, an indemnification clause would be saying that anyone that got the information from the data provider under the PDDL would pay them if someone that the data recipient gave the database to turned around and sued the original provider.

A=Database/data provider, offering data under the PDDL.

B=Recipient of database/data from A under the PDDL.

C=Any third party receiving the database/data from B.

D=Another third party receiving the database/data from C (and so on from D to E to F…)

A gives database/data to B under PDDL.  The Section 5 disclaimer and limitation of liability applies because B agreed to it (assuming that this disclaimer is valid in the relevant jurisdiction).

B gives it to C without the text of the PDDL attached, which is permitted because the database/data is in the public domain. B hasn’t agreed with A to the disclaimer in Section 5, and so it doesn’t apply.

C relies on the data, suffers damage because the data is inaccurate. C wants to sue A for providing bad data. An indemnification clause would mean that B pays A for costs/fees/damages/etc associated with the C vs A suit.

There seem to be two primary questions here:

  1. Can C sue A and consequently what is the liability for A?
  2. Would an indemnification clause be a suitable means for protecting A?

1. C vs A and A’s liability

This question requires a bit more research and thought on my end, so I won’t comment too much. But from a practical standpoint,

  • It seems like if you were presented with public domain data that you’d be pretty aware that the product is “AS IS” and that anyone could have modified it, and that it would be unreasonable to think otherwise.
  • If C was wanting to make sure that they had the most up-to-date and clean data, then they’d come to A (assuming A is that provider) who would present it to them with the PDDL and its Section 5 disclaimer.

2. Would an indemnification clause be a suitable means for protecting A?You can in part avoid the first question by putting in an indemnification clause that says whatever liability is there for A (if any), B pays for it. While I think from a practical legal standpoint that something like this might be desirable, I’m not sure how this fits in with the norms of the Free and Open Source Software, and open content movements.  If the PDDL is too overreaching then many might reject it on philosophical grounds. I’m also not sure that an indemnification fits into the spirit, if not the letter, of the Science Commons protocol.

It will be interesting to see the discussion develop around the idea of liability. Please post your comments or join the discuss list to contribute.

CC Zero beta tools now available

- January 16, 2008 in Legal

Creative Commons has released the beta version of CCZero (or CC ∅). CCZero implements the Science Commons Protocol for implementing Open Access Data by waiving related intellectual property rights, including copyright and unfair competition. Open Data Commons also implements this protocol in the Public Domain Dedication and Licence with the accompanying Community Norms statement.

The homepage for the licensing tool is at:

There are actually two underlying CCZero legal tools: one waives copyright and related rights and the other asserts that the work has no copyright in the United States.

CC ∅ Waiver 1.0 United States

Human readable summary available here.
Underlying legal code available here.

This legal code is for authors and rightsholder to waive copyright and related rights to the covered work and thus place it into the public domain. It is geared towards the law of the United States and does not mention, for example, database rightsUPDATE see below. It has a back-up license (like the Public Domain Dedication and Licence) in case a court finds the wiaver invalid.

CC ∅ assertion 1.0 United States

Human readable summary available here.
Underlying legal code available here.

The assertion is for third parties (not authors or rightsholders) to say that they’ve looked into the copyright status of the work and believe it to be in the public domain — in other words out of copyright. The text limits the assertion to US law and includes a clause recognizing that the asserter may be liable for making this assertion.

Initial thoughts

I’ll be posting more about CCZero and its relationship to the Open Data Commons but initially I’d like to point out that:

  • CCZero is based on US law and doesn’t include a specific waiver of database rights, though further internationalisation will presumably result in versions that do waive database rights;
  • UPDATE — Apologies I initially missed it, but there is language waiving database rights thought they aren’t mentioned by name. The waiver states ” including but not limited to … and any rights protecting the extraction, dissemination and reuse of data ,..”
  • The assertion only covers copyright law and not other areas of law, including those covered by the waiver (privacy, moral rights, unfair competition, and so on), though this makes sense in the context of these other rights; and
  • The CCZero assertion only covers copyright law in the United States.

Both the Open Data Commons Public Domain Dedication and Licence and the CCZero texts are drafts, and so your comments would be most welcome.

Implementing the Public Domain Dedication

- December 20, 2007 in Legal, PDDL

I want to bring up an important issue in trying to implement the public domain dedication part of the Open Data Commons Public Domain Dedication & Licence. The PDDL is made up of two parts — a dedication to the public domain of the “Work” and a back-up licence in case the jurisdiction involved doesn’t allow for a dedication into the public domain (dedicating your work isn’t necessarily allowed everywhere).

Giving up your rights to a work is a pretty big deal. That’s why most (if not all) legal systems require when a rightsholder assigns their copyright — totally and completely giving copyright over to another — they put it in writing and sign it. This is true in the UK and the US for example.

Dedicating a work to the public domain is relatively new territory, legally speaking, and so there probably won’t be a specific piece of legislation or court case out there in the relevant jurisdiction discussing how to dedicate the work to the public domain. But if there was, it would likely require a signed writing in order to make sure that rightsholders don’t give up their rights accidently — to prove that they thought about what they were doing and that they did it intentionally.

The parallel process of assigning a copyright (in existing law) is pretty important when arguing to a court confronted with enforcing the PDDL that it can and should be enforced as a public domain dedication, and it is very likely that the court would want to see a signed writing for the reasons discussed. It makes sense when you think about how dedicating your work to the public domain is a lot like assigning it to everyone on the planet simultaneously.

So once the process is complete for getting your feedback on the text of the PDDL, we will have to think about how we want the PDDL to be implemented. Because it should involve a “signed writing”, we can’t just have people link to the PDDL document when they want to use it, like people do for the Creative Commons licences. We’ll have to do something more like what CC currently does with their Public Domain Dedication tool, which involves a series of emails before the work is dedicated. Presumably the new CCZero will have the same or similar process.

Any thoughts on ways to implement this process would be most welcome. Please sign up for the discuss list here or comment on the site to add your voice.

Proposed additional clause on rights covered in PDDL

- December 19, 2007 in Legal, PDDL

There has been some discussion on a blog concerning the definition of a database used in the Public Domain Dedication & Licence and how this is applied. While the discussion is ongoing, I do want to mention the possibility of adding in a clause to clarify the types of rights involved in databases.

Proposed clause (new 2.2, current 2.2 shifted to 2.3)

2.2 Legal rights covered. This Licence covers the legal rights in the Database, including:

    a. Database Rights. Database Rights only extend to the extraction and re-utilisation of the whole or a substantial part of the Data. Database Rights can apply even when there is no copyright over the Database. Database Rights can also apply when the Data is selected and arranged in a way that would not infringe applicable copyright.
    b. Copyright. Any copyright or neighbouring rights in the Database. The copyright licensed includes any individual elements of the Database, but does not cover the copyright over the Data independent of this Database.Copyright law varies between jurisdictions, but is likely to cover: the Database model or schema, which is the structure, arrangement, and organisation of the Database, and can also include the Database tables and table indexes; the data entry and output sheets; and the Field names of Data stored in the Database.

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Unfair competition and the Science Commons protocol

- December 18, 2007 in Legal, PDDL

The issue of unfair competition has already come up on one of the discuss lists. The new Science Commons Protocol for Implementing Open Access Data mentions this area of law.

4.1 Converge on the public domain by waiving all rights based on intellectual property


Thus, to facilitate data integration and open access data sharing, any implementation of this protocol MUST waive all rights necessary for data extraction and re-use (including copyright, sui generis database rights, claims of unfair competition, implied contracts, and other legal rights), and MUST NOT apply any obligations on the user of the data or database such as “copyleft” or “share alike”, or even the legal requirement to provide attribution. Any implementation SHOULD define a non-legally binding set of citation norms in clear, lay-readable language.

The Public Domain Dedication & Licence doesn’t mention unfair competition, and so the question has come up whether it is compliant. I’ve gone ahead and started this part of the Legal FAQ to address this issue and solicit your feedback. The response is after the jump.

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