Thursday, 7 July 2011

Open Licenses

One of the most important things for any online resource to think about is the license they will make their data available under. Naturally we're very much into the Open variety here at Pelagios (in fact our work would essentially be meaningless otherwise), but that word can mask a good degree of philosophical (and occasionally bureaucratic) diversity. Creative Commons have a done a remarkable job of trying to simplify this process but it remains a fact that when bringing different datasets together we may be faced with the need to deal with multiple licenses. Pelagios in fact uses four: CC-ZERO, CC-BY, CC-BY-SA, CC-NC-ND. There are two reasons for this, a pragmatic one and a philosophical one.

Pragmatically, we essentially have no choice when working with a sizeable (and growing) consortium. Many of the projects we are working have been established for years (occasionally decades) and although all subscribe to a policy of open content they have different needs and histories of licensing. There is simply no way for us to require that they change to a new licensing regime. Philosophically however we see this as no bad thing. Indeed, the purpose of Pelagios is not to serve up a new aggregation of content under a new license and we doubt whether such an imperative could ever be scalable in principle. Rather, we wish explore complementary ways that resource providers can make their content available that facilitate integration with third parties, but under their own license terms. Resource combinations should always be created with specific goals in mind - not simply ad hoc aggregations - that take into account the licensing requirements as well as the content.

We are aware that in some cases the desired data will not always be available under the terms and conditions one might wish but that is simply the nature of cultural content. Trying to force the issue will only make potential future partners more hesitant to collaborate. We are keen to work together with any provider with ancient data, just as long as they are truly interested in sharing what they have with the wider world.

Information about all the licenses we use is available at:

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