Remember the licence!

Go for open, no banana skins

Following what might be regarded as the game-changing Harvard release of open bibliographic metadata with a CC0 licence in April 2012, OCLC has taken considerable steps to recognise the importance of open metadata to library services and wider resource discovery practice.

On 6th August, the Library Journal headlined the OCLC recommendation that member institutions that would like to release their catalogue data on the Web should do so with the Open Data Commons Attribution License (ODC-BY). For more details, see: http://bit.ly/MP63Dc.

However, the Discovery programme has consistently emphasised that attribution is a big banana skin in terms of practical implementation and on account of the associated Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (the FUD factor), whilst ironically carrying little likelihood of practical enforcement under the law. This position is at the heart of the Discovery principles and is very well articulated in a subsequent Creative Commons blog post – see http://creativecommons.org/weblog/entry/33768

So we propose that open metadata is increasingly mission critical as libraries reach out to new services and that public domain licensing is the best (perhaps only?) way to engender widespread community confidence in this journey.

Don’t forget the licence

On the downside, Cloud of Data’s Paul Miller recently posted his analysis of the use of open licenses associated with data releases registered at the OKFN Data Hub. Paul’s headline findings were that:

  • Half of the 4,000 registered open data sets have no license at all
  • Only 12% of licensed data sets use either CC0 or ODC-PDDL

These stats do not reflect badly on libraries, archives and museums as the Data Hub has attracted open data releases from a wide variety of sources. However, it would be good to see more public references to the UK institutions and Discovery projects that have released open metadata explicitly linked to a public domain licence – i.e. CC0 or ODC-PDDL

So why not consider the following options:

The Data Hub

The Data Hub is maintained by CKAN and was the source of information for Paul Miller’s blogpost. There is a simple slideshow tutorial about registering releases (whether uploads or links) at http://docs.ckan.org/en/latest/publishing-datasets.html

The web upload form is at http://thedatahub.org/dataset/new. As well as being linked to the submitter’s details, it is limited to just

  • title
  • license
  • free text description

It would be good to see UK open metadata releases registered there, with a clear link to CC0, ODC-PDL or whatever other licence has been selected. Given the limited data entry form, why not include reference to the Discovery principles and / or your project in the free text description description.

The Creative Commons CC0 exemplars webpage

http://wiki.creativecommons.org/CC0_use_for_data

Clearly this applies only to those of you that have opted for the CCO license. As you can see, you’ll be in good company. My assumption is that you should simply email info@creativecommons.org (perhaps marked FAO Timothy Volmer) with your request to be on the page, providing a simple statement in line with the style of the page plus a logo.

Postscript – On recommending choice

Without doubt, Attribution has its place in the scheme of things digital – but not ideally in relation to the assertion of uncertain ‘rights’ amidst the mosaic of public domain information and distinct intellectual endeavour that constitutes the world’s bibliographic records.

Perhaps there are lessons to be learned from elsewhere about offering choice to contributors – for example from Flickr, which presents contributors with choices including the various variants of Attribution – see http://www.flickr.com/creativecommons/.

Similarly, the University of California at Santa Cruz recommends CC attribution options for public contributions to its Grateful Dead Online Archive (http://www.gdao.org/contribution). This seeks to encourage contribution of digital objects by guaranteeing credit to members of the public, which seems appropriate for the particular GDAO community context.

PS – I wonder if the description of the GDAO target community as one of ‘shared inspiration and adaptation’ has some equivalence to the global community of cataloguers, bibliographers, archivists and curators that have built up our scholarly metadata.

You can find this post and a wealth of interesting stuff about resource discovery and open licensing at the JISC Discovery programme blog and you can follow #ukdiscovery on Twitter.

Posted by David Kay
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