Legal and Social Frameworks for Sharing Data on the Web

Half day tutorial at the 8th International Semantic Web Conference

25th October 2009, Washington DC

The Linked Data movement is gathering momentum and its principles are beginning to be adopted outside of the core Semantic Web community. To date the emphasis has rightly been on communicating key technology principles, but sustainable use of Semantic Web resources, particularly within a commercial context, requires that a broader range of issues are addressed. For example, what legal issues relate to the collection and re-publication of data from existing resources, and how do these vary internationally? Can incorrectly applied rights statements hamper re-use of data? How should community norms, like attribution, be fostered within a global community of data re-users? Many Semantic Web developers do not have the experience to address these questions, with the result that sustained growth of the Linked Data web may be hindered. This tutorial will address this education need, providing participants with an understanding of the broader range of issues relevant to global data publishing. The tutorial will review existing legal frameworks that support open data publishing, and provide guidance on their reuse. The social aspects of data sharing will also be introduced, using the Science Commons as an exemplar of open, international data sharing through creation of a public data commons.


Linked Data continues to gather momentum with ever larger volumes of new data being made available, some now born in a digital format, and the critical need to find a way to make better use of this information. So far the community has focused on the underpinning technical issues, but there are other aspects that must be addressed to support the sustainable growth of the Linked Data web. In particular, the commercial exploitation of, and engagement in, the Semantic Web needs to be supported by clear rights statements or waivers that relate to open data.

Many Semantic Web developers and researchers, do not have the conceptual background to understand these legal and social aspects to their efforts, and there is therefore a strong need for education and guidance to allow the community to address these issues. This is especially important if the Linked Data web is going to continue to develop at a grass-roots level. Simultaneously, commercial and governmental organisations also need additional guidance on how best to publish data to encourage wide reuse: technical issues are no longer a barrier to entry.

This tutorial attempts to address this need for education and discussion. Participants will benefit from the wide ranging legal, business and technical experience of the tutors, which provides a unique blend of skills suitable for addressing an important and wide-ranging topic.

We expect the tutorial to appeal to the full spectrum of ISWC2009 attendees, including researchers, developers, data managers/publishers. The tutorial is likely to have particular relevance for attendees involved in publishing, sharing, and funding scientific research, and data from the public sector and government.


The aim of this tutorial is to provide participants with a conceptual framework for understanding the legal and social issues that face the publishing and reuse of data on a global scale, covering issues relevant to both academic and commercial usage of the developing Linked Data web.

The primary focus for the tutorial will be to provide a concrete legal perspective on what information is covered by copyright; what information is considered to be public domain; and how this varies at an international level. The goal is to provide participants with a conceptual understanding of these issues that will guide them away from legally ambiguous forms of collection, publishing and re-use of data, that may hamper ongoing growth and exploitation of the Linked Data web. Existing legal frameworks that support rights statements and rights wavers will be introduced, along with guidance on their applicability in different contexts.

The second main theme for the tutorial is to introduce participants to the social frameworks that are necessary to support and encourage the growth of the Semantic Web as a true public data commons. The experiences of the academic research community, within the scope of the Science Commons project, will be used as an illustrative case study. Participants will be guided towards an understanding of the community norms that need to be created and reinforced within the Semantic Web community, within the broader Open Data movement, as well as within specific communities of interest.

Presentations by the tutors will be combined with a group discussion that will be used to reinforce the themes of the tutorial through discussion of practical issues that directly face the attendees. This tutorial provides a valuable complement to the ISWC 2008 tutorial on “How to Publish Linked Data” and the “Consuming Linked Data” tutorial scheduled for ISWC 2009. However, other than a basic conceptual understanding of the Semantic Web, and a broad understanding of the underpinning technologies, there are no pre-requisites for participation in the tutorial.

Tutorial Outline & Materials

The half-data tutorial will consist of primarily new content, and will draw on the legal, business, and technical expertise of the presenters to provide attendees with a conceptual framework for understanding the social and legal issues that relate to Linked Data publishing. The tutorial will provide background on existing legal support for expressing and waiving rights; guidance on their application in publishing data for international reuse. The perspectives and experience of the academic research community will be used to illustrate the relevant social and community norms that apply to data publishing. These issues will be tied together with practical advice on how to support these legal and social frameworks at a technical level.

  • Introduction
    • Terminology: Licenses, Waivers
    • Review of rights statements in the LOD Cloud
  • Legal Perspectives on Data Publishing
    • Copyright and its application to data
    • International issues
    • The Open Data Commons
    • The CC0 Waiver
    • The Science Commons Data Protocol
  • Social Frameworks
    • Convergence on a Public Domain
    • The Science Commons: perspectives from the research community
  • Practical Application
    • Publishing rights statements and waivers in Linked Data
    • Attribution in Linked Data and SPARQL
    • Community Norms

Links to the presenters slides and relevant resources will be made available closer to the event.


Leigh Dodds
Leigh is a Programme Manager at Talis, a company at the forefront of Semantic Web data storage, management and publishing, where his responsibilities include the product and business development of the Talis Platform. Leigh was instrumental in launching the Talis Connected Commons, a free hosting scheme for public domain data. Leigh has a long history of working with Semantic Web technologies and has spoken widely on the topics of the Semantic Web, Linked Data, and Open Data publishing at a number of technical and publishing conferences.

Jordan Hatcher
Jordan is an open licensing expert and IP lawyer focusing on the intersection of law and technology. He’s been on the board of EFF-Austin, currently sits on the board of the Open Knowledge Foundation, and is the co-founder of Open Data Commons, a project developing legal tools for open data. Jordan specializes in future gazing in geek law topics and regularly writes and speaks about legal issues ranging from anime fansub copyright to behavioral advertising and privacy. He has a film degree, a JD from the University of Texas, and an LLM in IP/IT law from the University of Edinburgh. Jordan lives and works in the United Kingdom.

Tom Heath
Tom is a Researcher in the Platform Division of Talis, a company at the forefront of Semantic Web data storage, management and publishing. He is a leading member of the Linking Open Data community project, and co-author of “How to Publish Linked Data on the Web”, the primary online tutorial for publishers of Linked Data. Tom has extensive experience of publishing and consuming Linked Data, and has spoken widely on this subject and related topics concerning the Semantic Web to both academic and technical audiences. Tom has a PhD in Computer Science from The Open University.

Kaitlin Thaney
Kaitlin is the Program Manager of Science Commons, a project of the non-profit Creative Commons. Prior to Science Commons, she worked as the communications coordinator for MIT iCampus, a research alliance between the university and Microsoft, centered on education technology. She also spent time working at Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press in Arlington, VA, focused on First Amendment issues, open government and freedom of information. Prior to that, Kaitlin worked as a correspondent for The Boston Globe’s City/Region section. Kaitlin did her undergraduate work at Northeastern University, where she received two degrees – one in journalism and the other in political science. Her interests lie in open access publishing, data sharing and licensing issues, and the burgeoning open science movement. She is based in Boston, Massachusetts.


This tutorial is open to all members of the ISWC community. Tutorial participants must pay the ISWC 2009 conference registration fee as well as the tutorial fee. For information on how to register and details of the fees, please visit the main ISWC 2009 website.

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