Licenses for the data

Project 365 #303: 301009 Blink And You'll Miss It! Photo: Pete, Flickr
Photo: Pete, Flickr. CC BY

The general idea of open data is that it should be “freely available to everyone to use and republish as they wish, without restrictions from copyright, patents or other mechanisms of control” (definition from Wikipedia). But what does that mean in practice in terms of licensing?

We publish Sweden’s aid data on in order to increase government transparency and accountability, and we also want the data to be freely available to use for other purposes. However, there are some cases where copyright applies and where Sida is not in a position to waiver those rights. In trying to answer the question of what copyright licenses apply to our data and documents, the team decided to meet up with Wikimedia Sverige to sort things out.


Public Domain Mark (PDM) or CC0?

Just like any other public authority in Sweden, copyright does not subsist in laws, regulations, decisions or reports by Sida. Comparing the two licenses PDM and CC0, they practically result in the same thing: the data can be used freely. However, PDM and CC0 assume two completely different starting points that are important to remember. CC0 assumes that the publisher of the material owns the copyright and waivers those rights (as far as possible), while the PDM license should be applied to material where no copyright exists at all. The PDM is recommended by Creative Commons to be used for material where no copyright no longer applies, mainly due the old age of the work. In that sense the PDM-license is not ideal, but it is the license that we have deemed is most applicable to government data.

While it might seem like a detail, the chosen license does communicate an important point about government transparency: as a public authority we have no copyright to our open data that we can waiver as it already belongs to the public.

Documents and the exceptions that prove the rule

PDM is the choice of license for our open data since we do not have any copyright to it to start with. However, there are exceptions to be wary of. Copyright can still  apply to images, logotypes, maps and other material that is not produced by Sida but is present in our material. We are currently in the process of going through what types of documents we have available and what licenses might apply in each case.

You can read more about the terms of use here.

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