Iati tag meeting, 4-6 October 2010, Cookham, uk session 12: Discussion Paper on Licensing iati tag secretariat1, September 2010

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IATI TAG meeting, 4-6 October 2010, Cookham, UK

Session 12: Discussion Paper on Licensing

IATI TAG Secretariat1, September 2010


Making aid information easily accessible on the internet isn't enough. Aid information must be legally accessible as well to prevent intended or unintended legal restrictions creating a barrier to use and reuse of aid information.
This report is an initial guide to the IATI working group on the legal side of opening up aid information. The report is structured as follows:

Context 1

Background 2

Goals 2

Summary of the IATI information model 2

Why a license? 3

The user’s perspective 3

Survey of aid information site licensing terms 4

What is open data? 4

What legal restrictions can you place on open data? 5

Why an open license? 5

Should you draft an open license or use an established framework? 5

Database / Contents distinction 6

Recommendations 6

Specific Recommendations when adopting this Model: 7

The Model Implementation 8

Next steps 9

Proposed deliverables 9

The proposed IATI Licensing Standard 10

Relevant links 11

About OKF 11

About Jordan Hatcher 11

Draft IATI Licensing Standard 12

The recommendations for discussion in the meeting are:

  1. Create an IATI Licensing Standard drawing from current and proposed open government principles.

  2. The IATI Licensing Standard should be limited to open licenses as defined under the Open Knowledge Definition

  3. The IATI Licensing Standard should further limit compliant open licenses to public domain dedications and attribution only licenses.

  4. Create a model implementation of the new IATI Licensing Standard making use of existing open licenses.

  5. Provide an IP policy for the IATI registry.

  6. Create a set of resources to educate and help users about licensing.


The International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) is developing an aid information standard for publishing aid information (data) across three strands:

  1. Building technical standards for dissemination of aid information to enable use and reuse (aid information as technically open).

  2. Creating a centralised registry where the public can conveniently find global aid information (aid information should be easily findable).

  3. Developing a model license so that users can be secure in their rights to use and reuse the aid information (aid information is legally open).

Making aid information easily accessible on the internet isn't enough. Aid information must be legally accessible as well to prevent intended or unintended legal restrictions creating a barrier to use and reuse of aid information.
This report and recommendation is an initial guide to the IATI working group on the legal side of opening up aid information.


The core suggested goal of implementing an open license for IATI is to encourage use and reuse of aid information to the greatest extent possible in order to meet goals such as to:

  • Identify potential costs savings;

  • Improve funding effectiveness; and

  • Gain greater transparency and accountability.

These goals should inform the license choice and framework that developed through this working group.

Summary of the IATI information model

Publishing information as part of the IATI framework will broadly consist of four steps:

1. Collection – information collection activities in relation to aid work.

2. Technical work – publishing information in formats recommended by the IATI technical standard

3. Publication on own site – Organization and presentation of aid information with access tools on a public website, potentially as a microsite or subdomain, such as data.worldbank.org. These sites will use licensing terms and best practices recommended in the IATI Licensing Standard.

4. Aggregation into the IATI registry – the IATI site will, using CKAN software, collect metadata and links to the information published on individual IATI member sites into a centralised resource for users.

Steps 3 and 4 are the main focus of the IATI Licensing Working Group and this report.

Why a license?

A natural question to start: “Why do we need a Licensing Working Group?” The answer arises from the automatic nature of Intellectual Property (IP) law, which means that aid information providers will potentially have IP rights over their aid information and thus will need to license them.
Intellectual property law is generally national in nature, but the internet and aid work is global. Whilst generally facts are not copyrightable, particularly when facts are aggregated into databases or even XML files, IP law questions around copyright and database rights arise even if these collections only contain factual information.2 These IP law questions around databases and collections of information are often an area that lacks legal clarity in a particular jurisdiction, and the questions and answers from a legal perspective constantly evolve at the global level.
Thus a user, finding information online, should assume that databases and information can be covered by contract law and intellectual property rights such as copyright and (particularly in Europe) database rights. Therefore the default setting in the law is that a user will usually require some sort of permission from the rightsholder (usually the publisher), and this permission takes the form of a license.
Without a license, users can never be sure of their rights to the information and this acts as a chilling effect to innovation (as the users never know if they can be subject to an expensive IP lawsuit).
Giving users a license gives a firm foundation to build new applications, analysis, and tools with the information – particularly important for professional and commercial users.

The user’s perspective

Legal rights often mean getting lawyers involved, which means money (hourly billing) and risk (hauled off to court). For some, it may not be an issue, but if the goal of an information provider is to encourage use and reuse of their information, then addressing at least some of these legal issues will be necessary – especially for commercial users to feel comfortable.

Say for example someone puts up a database on the web without any statement around the rights over that database.

What is a user to do in this situation? The user has four options:

  1. Ask for a license from the rightsholder(s) (likely the provider);

  2. Use under an exception to the law, such as fair dealing/fair use in copyright;

  3. Infringe (and take the risk of getting caught and paying damages); or

  4. Find an alternative.

Even finding out whether your use qualifies under an exception to copyright law often involves a lawyer, and asking for licenses (and drafting them) can be time consuming and cost prohibitive (for both parties). The laundry list of all the different legal issues mentioned above must be taken into consideration when opening data – including copyright, database rights, contract.

Survey of aid information site licensing terms

As part of this report, the Open Knowledge Foundation performed a short review of the licensing terms of publishers of aid information. The goal of the review was to quickly assess how easily users can find the copyright/IP policy for the databases and broadly what kinds of restrictions were placed by publishers. This way, the Working Group can establish a baseline of how member publish aid information. We found that:

  • Several publish information on their websites with no copyright/IP policies, which would mean users would likely assume the most restrictive conditions on use and reuse. Out of this group several made no mention of copyright at all whereas others had only a copyright notice in the page footer;3

  • Several have strict terms on use and reuse, including non-commercial use restrictions. Some of these may further still prevent reuse (such as derivative or transformative works) for even non-commercial users;4 and

  • Some had policies equivalent to an “attribution only” license,5 and one that was currently using a Creative Commons Attribution license (CC-BY).6

This survey revealed that currently many providers don’t currently have interoperable (mutually consistent) licensing terms, thus preventing users from mixing data between sources (from a legal perspective), nor have easy-to-use copyright/IP policies that enable wide use and reuse by the public.

What is open data?

From a legal perspective, open data is the application to data and databases of many of the same principles and philosophies as Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) and open content projects such as certain Creative Commons licenses. The open data perspective is most useful for looking at the issues of publishing aid information.

Open data licenses take Option 1 above for database users – asking for a license from the rightsholder – and flips it around to give users a license up front to use the database with limited restrictions.

For data and databases, to be “open” means that users have the ability to:

  • mash up / integrate datasets from different providers;

  • add, edit, and delete data records;

  • change the organisation of the data (its schema) and change the database to a different format;

  • copy and distribute the data and the database; and other related rights to make the integration and use of data run smoothly.

For more detail on what it means to be “open”, please see the Open Knowledge Definition at: <http://www.opendefinition.org/>. The Open Knowledge Definition sets out the principles to define ‘openness’ in knowledge, similar to other definitions as Free Cultural Works and the OSI’s Open Source Definition.

What legal restrictions can you place on open data?

In order for data to be open, the only permissible restrictions on use and reuse are:

  • Attribution – requiring some sort of credit or statement of source or contributors; and

  • Share Alike (also known as copyleft or reciprocal licensing) – requiring that any derivatives (altered databases) be licensed under the exact same license. These licenses are more restrictive than simple attribution licenses and often include attribution as an additional component.

Of course no IP restrictions at all – a public domain approach – meet the definition of “open data” because users are free to use it for anything.
Note that non-commercial restrictions and restrictions that prohibit modification (a/k/a no derivatives restrictions) are not open under this approach.7 Thus open aid information must permit commercial use.
Again, for more detail on what it means to be open, please see the Open Definition at <http://www.opendefinition.org/>

Why an open license?

Open source software licensing and open content licenses have made great strides in developing stable, useful software and rich content available for the general public. The goal of open data is to bring this established approach of open licensing to data.
A key feature of these approaches is that the work should be available for further use and re-use by the public without the need to seek further permission from the rightsholder. The rightsholder up front gives the world a license to use their work. This is important as negotiating individual licenses can waste resources (for both the rightsholder and the user), especially when the rightsholder would like to share their information but has no easy way of doing so.

Should you draft an open license or use an established framework?

Information publishers such as IATI members generally have two options when considering an open license:

  1. Draft their own IP license that complies with a standard for “openness”, such as the Open Definition; or

  2. Use an already established open license, such as the open licenses available from Creative Commons or Open Data Commons.

Using an established open data license is highly recommended as it means:

  • Fewer resources – someone has already done the hard (and often expensive) work of drafting a license for you.

  • Easier for users – your users spend less time reading licenses and figuring out the terms if they only have to do it once for each license.

  • Leverages external resources – many licensing communities have FAQs and license-specific discussion lists to help users answer any licensing questions that come up.

  • Builds a community of resources – having a large number of resources under the same license makes it easier for users to see how they can combine information from multiple sources.

Database / Contents distinction

Often when people talk about data they only mean factual information – water boils at 100℃ and the like. But in the context of open data, the contents of a database can be anything, including:

  • Mobile video

  • Images, such as from Flickr

  • Text documents, such as Microsoft Word .doc files

  • Factual information, such as dates or budget numbers

Anything that can be stored in a database can be “data” in this context. That’s why it can be helpful to distinguish the two as the “contents of a database” and “the database”. This is the data/database distinction, and from a legal perspective it means:

  • There may be legal rights specific to the contents of a database (the data, because it can be anything).

  • Any collection of contents (the database, and potentially even an XML file) may have legal rights covering that collection that are independent of the rights over individual contents within the collection.

So for example, if you had a database of still images and video of science fiction movies from the 1960’s and 1970’s, you:

  • May have rights, including for your selection and arrangement of the sci-fi films, over the database as a whole.

  • You’d still have to clear the rights (such as copyright) over the images and video you included inside your database.

It’s a bit like a layer cake - the bottom layer rights over the contents, the top layer rights over the database.
This is the reason why more than one open license will be necessary to cover both the database and the contents, including potentially the website and associated materials. All of these can however be wrapped into a single Intellectual Property Policy to govern the use of the information for your users and their use and relation to each other plainly explained in the IP Policy and in any accompanying FAQs.


OKF recommends adopting a licensing model that allows individual aid information publishers to have their own site policies within a narrowly defined range of acceptable terms set by IATI. This model allows the most flexibility and control for IATI publishers and at the same time ensures that the aid information remains open and accessible to the public. The recommended approach means that IATI should:

  • Create a licensing standard (much like the technical standard) that defines the range of acceptable licenses its members can have.

  • Help its members implement the standard by creating a model license that makes use of existing open data licenses.

  • Provide FAQs and other material to help users understand and comply with the compliant licenses of aid information publishers.

Specific Recommendations when adopting this Model:

Recommendation 1: Create an IATI Licensing Standard. This standard will define the boundaries for IATI member licenses to promote use and reuse of the aid information. IATI members will be publishing aid information on their own websites, which will then be collected into the main IATI website. As publishers, each website will need its own licensing terms on the site.

By defining a Licensing Standard of the licenses for individual information publishers, IATI will:

  • Allow flexibility for IATI members to take into account local law;

  • Accommodate IATI members already publishing information under licenses compliant with the proposed IATI Licensing Standard (so they won’t have to revisit the licensing issues if they don’t have to);

  • Simplify licensing issues for IATI users, as the type and kinds of licenses used will be confined to a set compliant with the standard.

  • Help ensure legal interoperability (the ability to mix information from a licensing perspective) of aid information between IATI publishers.

The new IATI Licensing Standard should draw from current and proposed open government principles, such as the UK’s Public Data Principles.8

Recommendation 2: The IATI Licensing Standard should be limited to open licenses as defined under the Open Knowledge Definition. The Open Knowledge Definition ensures that IATI users can freely use, reuse, and redistribute the information. It is a stable and internationally used definition of openness built on principles tested in the context of open source and open content over a number of years.

Recommendation 3: The IATI Licensing Standard should further limit compliant open licenses to public domain dedications and attribution only licenses. As part of this approach, IATI publishers would be free to choose from either an attribution or public domain approach for their information.

The core goal of opening up aid information is to encourage its use and reuse as widely as possible and so IATI should strongly consider a public domain approach (i.e., no restrictions on use) as this will:

  • Allow for the widest possible use and reuse of the information.

  • Creates information that is cross-compatible (from a licensing perspective) with any other content.

  • Follows the approach of governments such as the US, which does not generally assert IP rights over government-produced works.

IATI should not consider licenses any more restrictive that an “Attribution-only” license whereby the only restrictions on users is that they give credit to the source. This is a minimal requirement, though can still be burdensome when aggregating data from 100s (or more) of sources. By creating template attribution forms, FAQs, and taking a practical approach to asking for attribution from users, any burdens can be greatly alleviated.
A Share-Alike license is specifically not recommended as it can create “license silos” whereby IATI data could be generally restricted from being licensed with other data – even other openly licensed data.
Similarly, any non-commercial or no derivatives restrictions9 severely limit how the data can be integrated and mashed up with the data from other providers and from the outset eliminates one of the most powerful set of potential users of the data – businesses.
Note that a public domain approach does not mean that IATI members cannot ask for and receive credit for their work through developing community norms and encouraging this behaviour – it only means that giving credit isn't a formal legal requirement.

Recommendation 4: Create a model implementation of the new IATI Licensing Standard making use of existing open licenses. By creating a model set of terms for implementing the proposed standard, IATI will:

  • Save costs by making use of an existing open data license.

  • Help encourage the greatest use and reuse of aid information by tapping into already existing online communities around existing open data licenses.

  • Prevent license proliferation10 by encouraging IATI members to adopt standard terms.

  • Help encourage adoption by IATI members of the IATI Licensing Standard by providing a clear path to implement the Standard inside their organisation.

Recommendation 5: Provide an IP policy for the IATI registry. Just as each publisher will have their own terms compliant with the Standard, so should the IATI registry site have an IP policy that complies with the Standard.

Recommendation 6: Create a set of resources to educate and help users about licensing. Alongside the aid information collected into the IATI registry, IATI should provide FAQs and other resources to help aid information users to comply with the terms of the licenses among IATI publishers.

The Model Implementation

Note that individual IATI publishers (licensors) should consult their own legal advice before adopting any license. OKF suggests the following licenses as appropriate for aid information and the approach outlined above and that should be considered as part of the Model Implementation of the IATI Licensing Standard.
For public domain the following are suggested:

  • Open Data Commons Public Domain Dedication and License (PDDL) <http://www.opendatacommons.org/licenses/pddl/> ; and

  • Creative Commons CC0 tool or Public Domain certification <http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/>

For Attribution licenses the following are suggested:

  • Open Data Commons Attribution License (ODC-BY) <http://www.opendatacommons.org/licenses/by/>

  • Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY) <http://creativecommons.org/choose/>

Note that IATI members can choose to dual license their works using more than one license – thus allowing users a choice between terms, for example by using:

  • Both their own in house licenses and one of the above; or

  • Two of the same license types above, for example using both the ODC-BY and CC-BY licenses.11

Licensing under the Standard may require the use of more than one open license as part of the overall IP Policy set out in the Model Implementation. This is because the type of information may range across multiple types of content, all with different legal issues that may attach.
As a result, we also suggest reviewing and implementing an open license for relevant content (documents), some of which may be inside the databases made available:

  • An open license for the content (as opposed to the data) on the IATI family of contributors. A Creative Commons license such as CC-BY or CC-BY-SA may be most suitable.

Just as with databases, we suggest that the least restrictive license will best meet IATI’s goals, which would suggest a Creative Commons Attribution license (CC-BY).

Next steps

This document forms a basis for discussion of the proposed IATI licensing framework to be fully developed by the working group. The next major step is to:

  • Review and agree on a recommended licensing approach for IATI members as expressed in an IATI Licensing Standard.

A proposed draft of the IATI Licensing Standard is attached.

Proposed deliverables

Under the above suggested licensing model and within the scope of the engagement, we suggest producing:

  • An IATI Licensing Standard setting out the principles around licensing aid data and based on Public Domain dedications and Attribution open licenses, as defined by the Open Definition.

  • A model implementation of the IATI licensing standard, using PDDL/CC0 or the ODC-BY licenses together with standard Terms and Conditions language for use on IATI publisher websites. IATI publishers would be free to use other implementations of the IATI Licensing Standard – this model policy would simply help publishers by giving an on off-the-shelf set of terms for their website. (there is an early draft in annex A)

  • A set of FAQs addressing issues such as how to do attribution, data licensing basics, and a set of community norms.

A key point for the users of the IATI website will be IATI’s own Intellectual Property Policy and license for the metadata generated by the IATI registry (using CKAN). We can separately engage to discuss and produce an appropriate IP Policy.

The proposed IATI Licensing Standard

The proposed IATI Licensing Standard would recommend:

  • Only legal tools and text compliant with the Open Knowledge Definition (OKD) at OpenDefinition.org.

  • No restrictions on “fields of endeavor” (OKD #8) in the licenses, thus non-commercial licenses would not be compliant with the standard.

  • Use of a public domain or attribution only license within the OpenDefinition.

  • Plain language for the licenses and any terms and conditions.

  • Clearly setting out how to comply with the attribution requirements for those that have them, including examples and model attribution language.

Further this standard would allow for the following conditions provided they didn’t amount to further restrictions exceeding the Standard, such as:

  • Technical restrictions on use of web services (such as limiting the number of calls per hour via an API).

  • Any type of disclaimer of warranties.

  • “No endorsement” language and separate (non-open) policies for any trademarks or reserved symbols.

In this way the IATI Licensing Standard will strike a balance between openness for aid information and necessary restrictions as governments and information publishers.
An early draft based available in Annex A.

Relevant links

Data.gov.uk’s Public Data Principles: <http://data.gov.uk/wiki/Public_Data_Principles>

Open Data Commons homepage: <http://www.opendatacommons.org>

Creative Commons: <http://www.creativecommons.org>

Open Knowledge Foundation: <http://www.okfn.org/>

Open Definition: <http://www.opendefinition.org/>

Science Commons Protocol for Open Access Data: <http://sciencecommons.org/projects/publishing/open-access-data-protocol/>

Panton Principles: Principles for Open Data in Science <http://pantonprinciples.org/>

About OKF

Founded in 2004, the Open Knowledge Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation promoting open knowledge: that's any kind of information – sonnets to statistics, genes to geodata – that can be freely used, reused, and redistributed. We organise events such as OKCon, run projects like Open Shakespeare, and develop tools such as CKAN and KnowledgeForge to help people create, find and share open material.

You can find out more about the OKF at www.okfn.org

About Jordan Hatcher

Jordan is the co-author of the Open Data Commons set of licenses and on the Board of Directors of the Open Knowledge Foundation. Outside of these roles, he is a consultant, academic, and entrepreneur working on Intellectual Property and Internet law issues in the UK and worldwide.

As to more formal qualifications, he has a film degree from the University of North Texas, a JD in law from the University of Texas, and an LLM in Innovation, Technology and the Law from the University of Edinburgh. He concentrates on “soft IP” issues (primarily copyright and trademark), open data, open content, free and open source software, and anything where digital technology and the law meet.

You can find out more about him from his site, www.jordanhatcher.com.

Draft IATI Licensing Standard

Open Aid Information Standard

This standard concerns open aid information. But what is open aid information?

  1. By “open” we mean open as in the Open (Knowledge) Definition12 — in essence information (data) is open if it can be freely used, reused, and redistributed by anyone.

  2. By “aid information” we mean data and information produced or commissioned as part of a program of development assistance by governments, multilateral organizations, private foundation or NGO..

Aid information must be published under public domain waivers or attribution-only open licenses as defined by the Open Knowledge Definition.
We want aid information to be used and added to by others as widely as possible. Therefore the use of licenses that limit commercial re-use or limit the production of derivative works by excluding use for particular purposes or by specific persons or organisations is discouraged. These licenses make it impossible to integrate and re-purpose datasets and prevent commercial activities that could be used to support wider dissemination and innovative uses of aid information.
Further, we want to make aid information as widely usable as possible, even within the context of the Open Knowledge Definition. Therefore we limit acceptable licenses to those that place aid information into the public domain (waivers) and those that at most require attribution to the source. Share alike clauses for aid information are specifically prohibited, as they can cause “license silos” by preventing legal interoperability even between other openly licensed material.
Note that this standard applies to aid information, and so does allow for some restrictions for non-aid information and for technical reasons, such as:

  1. Technical restrictions on use of web services (such as limiting the number of calls per hour via an API).

  2. Any type of disclaimer of warranties.

  3. No endorsement” language and separate (non-open) policies for any trademarks or reserved symbols.

Aid information publishers should use recognised public domain waivers or open licenses that are appropriate for data.

Making use of recognised open licenses helps encourage the greatest use and reuse of aid information by tapping into already existing online communities built around existing open data licenses.

In addition, many widely recognised licenses are not intended for, and are not appropriate for, data or collections of data. We recommend using an open license tailored for data for the publication of aid information.

Public domain approaches are preferred for aid information.
We strongly recommend that aid information, especially where the result of public funding, be explicitly placed in the public domain. This is to better serve democracy, transparency, and public participation. We understand that this is not always possible or preferable for publishers, and thus an open license requiring only attribution to the source is provided as an alternative.
Note that publishing aid information in the public domain complies with related open data initiatives, including the Panton Principles13, and the Science Commons Protocol for Implementing Open Access Data14. Even when data are placed in the public domain data users in many academic disciplines and in other contexts will voluntarily follow established social norms of citation and attribution.

Intellectual property policies related to aid information must be in plain language and easily accessible to users.
Publishers should make use of plain language and should highlight their IP policies to users accessing aid information in order to make it as easy as possible for users to access, read, and understand the rights that they have to use, reuse, and redistribute the aid information.

Publishers should include FAQs and licensing help whenever possible.
In order to further facilitate understanding of their rights and obligations -- and those of data users -- under the license, publishers and IATI itself should publish detailed FAQs and related licensing help resources.

1 Paper prepared for the IATI Technical Advisory Group Licensing Subgroup—Open Data Recommendations: Licensing by Jordan S. Hatcher www.jordanhatcher.com Open Knowledge Foundation www.okfn.org 13 September 2010

2 Though many times they may contain or have links to non-factual information, such as images, text, or document files.

3 E.g. Sweden ‘s SIDA site and Spain’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation site.

4 E.g. AusAID, GAVI and UNDP.

5 Defined further below, an attribution license has very few restrictions beyond requiring credit be given to the licensor.

6 E.g. UK DFID (attribution only equivalent) and the Hewlett Foundation (CC user).

7 Note that this means that only two of the Creative Commons licenses are open under this definition: the Attribution (CC-BY) and Attribution Share Alike (CC-BY-SA) set of licenses.

8 http://data.gov.uk/wiki/Public_Data_Principles

9 For example, the Creative Commons licenses containing the Non-Commercial (NC) or No Derivatives (ND) clauses.

10 The greater the number of licenses, the more time, money, and resources users must spend reviewing and complying with those licenses and the greater the chance the licenses will be legally incompatible.

11 Note that legal differences exist between the licenses and that any final decision on licensing should be reviewed by counsel.

12 Add URL as footnote (for those not reading document online).

13 URL for Panton Principles

14 URL for Protocol for Implementing Open Access Data

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