Open Data Licenses : Finally !

October 28, 2010

The short version of the story

You can now license your data to be shared openly by using the new Open Data Licenses

Designed by the Scientific Commons.

At the


The full version of the story

The Scientific Commons through its Scholar Copyrights Project has been working on a Protocol for implementing Open Access Data, based on:

The Protocol is designed to satisfy the following requirements:

  • Promote legal predictability and certainty
  • Easy to use and understand
  • Impose the lowest possible transaction cost on users

This effort has born fruit very recently in the form of the first licenses specifically designed for openly sharing scientific data.

As strong supporters of Open Science and its three pillars,

we at Kitware have been anxiously looking for such licenses for several years, particularly to use them in the MIDAS database server, and the Insight Journal. Today we are very happy to have found the answer to this quest.

Why do we need specific licenses for Data?

Why not simply use one of the many Open Source Licenses, or any of the Creative Commons Licenses ?

The reason is that

Why does Data need a license?

Data itself, particularly scientific data, is not covered by copyright, because, being “facts”, it lacks the element of creative expression that copyright is intended to “protect”.

That is, the expression

  • “The electron has a mass of 9.10938188 x 10 ^ -31 kilograms”

is a fact that should not be controlled exclusively by any single individual or institution.

However, the expression

  • “It was a drizzling morning when Thompson glimpsed in awe through the visor of his fantasmagoric catodic tube, to face the reality that the mass of the electron was close to 1×10^-31 kilograms. Such magnificent nothingness !”

is a small piece of literary art and deserves indeed the state-granted monopoly that the US government generously awards me for the duration of my lifetime plus seventy years (Thank You Very Much!).

However, a number of legal liabilities create uncertainty for data users that prevents them from freely using and distributing data.

In particular, in certain jurisdictions, databases are covered by copyright, and therefore the partial use of their data goes into the gray zone in which you must make sure that you know a good lawyer.

The Open Data Licenses

The new Open Data Licenses are:

In order to apply the license to your data, you simply need to append the following notice:

This Monkey-Brain-MRI-Database is made available under the Open Data Commons Attribution License,

More details on how to manage these licenses are available at:


Our sincere thanks to the Science Commons for making another quantum leap towards the Open Sharing of information that will trigger real Progress of Science and Technology.


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