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Library catalog metadata: Open licensing or public domain?

Timothy Vollmer, August 14th, 2012

catalogue
catalogue / elise.y / CC BY

As reported a few weeks ago, OCLC has recommended that its member libraries adopt the Open Data Commons Attribution license (ODC-BY) when they share their library catalog data online. The recommendation to use an open license like ODC-BY is a positive step forward for OCLC because it helps communicate in advance the rights and responsibilities available to potential users of bibliographic metadata from library catalogs. But the decision by OCLC to recommend the licensing route — as opposed to releasing bibliographic metadata into the public domain — raises concerns that warrants more discussion.

OCLC says that making library data derived from WorldCat available under an open license like ODC-BY complies with their community norms. There are other options, however, that are equally compliant. Harvard Library, for example, developed an agreement with OCLC earlier this year that makes its metadata available under the CC0 Public Domain Dedication. This means that Harvard relinquishes all its copyright and related rights to that data, thereby enabling the widest variety of downstream reuse. Even though it puts this information into the public domain, Harvard requests that users provide attribution to the source as a best practice without making attribution a legally binding requirement through a license.

There are good reasons for relying on community norms for metadata attribution instead of requiring it as a condition of a licensing agreement. The requirement to provide attribution through a contract like ODC-BY is not well-suited to a world where data are combined and remixed from multiple sources and under a variety of licenses and other use restrictions. For example, the library community is experimenting with new technologies like linked data as a means of getting more value from its decades-long collective investment in cataloging data. And we’re happy to see that OCLC has released a million WorldCat records containing 80 million linked data triples in RDF. However, we believe that requiring attribution as a licensing condition introduces complexity that will make it technically difficult — if not impossible — for users to comply.

Then there is the question of how to properly attach attribution information to a discrete bit of data (e.g. a single field, subfield, or triple). OCLC has helpfully provided guidelines around attribution for its linked data, but how would these work for member libraries that follow OCLC’s recommendation to adopt the ODC-BY license when they publish their own data? Library linked data collections are often derived from small subsets of many large collections and recombined with new relationships, potentially requiring separate attribution for each data element. In the case of OCLC’s data release, imagine that a user downloads the OCLC file containing 80 million linked data triples, extracts the ones she’s interested in, and then links them to her own catalog data to create a new linked dataset. The guidelines for the WorldCat data include the option of considering a WorldCat URI to be sufficient attribution, but how would that work for the library’s own bibliographic data or for additional data drawn from non-OCLC sources? The guidelines do not include recommendations for how libraries should implement their own data in such a way that reusers can comply with the attribution requirements imposed by the ODC-BY license. The community norms and best practices for reusing library linked data are not yet well defined, so relying on them in the context of a legally binding license is troubling.

Another question arises about the scope of the ODC-BY license with its focus on European database rights in addition to copyright — database rights that do not apply in the U.S. and that cover the database in its entirety but not its contents, making it uncertain whether it can be applied to a simple file of bibliographic data. And the question of whether copyright applies at all to bibliographic data, given its mainly factual nature, is doubtful and differs depending on legal jurisdiction. While the ODC-BY license may make good sense for OCLC to apply to WorldCat itself, it would be a questionable choice for a U.S. library that is looking to share some of its catalog data as a downloadable file.

Moreover, because most countries outside of the European Union — including the United States — do not grant protection to non-creative databases, the ODC-BY license does not operate except at best as a contractual restriction on those downloading directly from the licensor’s website. So this restriction, which is not based on any underlying exclusive property right, is unlikely to bind reusers that do not obtain the data directly from the original data provider. The absence of a binding contract coupled with the lack of any underlying property right means licensors may be surprised to learn they do not have a strong and effective remedy such as a claim of infringement against those downstream users. This is a known concern with the Open Database License, ODC-BY’s sister license that has the same license + contract design feature. Thus, the license in many instances simply will not protect the library that shared the data, or OCLC, in the manner they expect.

Another more general concern about using a licence to share bibliographic metadata has to do with its technical feasibility. This is evident in the Model language that OCLC recommends, which includes links to the WCRR Record Use Policy (WorldCat Rights and Responsibilities), community norms and an FAQ. Following these links takes readers to pages with yet more information about the requirements expected for members and non-members. The concern is not so much the opaqueness of the rules, but that they may become linked to a great number of records which have nothing to do with OCLC. For example, many members may only have started fairly recently to re-use records from OCLC, yet in the model language no distinction is made between OCLC and non-OCLC sourced records, again, because there is no feasible technical solution to differentiate between these. The result: attribution is (wrongly) given to OCLC for the whole database, and a large number of OCLC principles linked to the library database’s complete contents. While the ODC-BY and WCRR may well be well-intentioned instruments to turn the WorldCat data into a “Common Pool Resource” for OCLC members, it certainly lacks the technical solutions to demarcate where it begins and ends, potentially resulting in confusion and overreaching requirements for members that try to comply. Fundamentally, this begs the question whether library records shouldn’t just be public goods released into the public domain.

For all of the above reasons, cultural institutions including The British Library, Europeana, the University of Michigan Library, Harvard and others have adopted the CC0 Public Domain Dedication for publishing their catalog data online. From this, we see that a truly normative approach for the library community would be a public domain dedication such as CC0, coupled with requests to provide attribution to the source (e.g. OCLC) to the extent possible. Such an approach would maximize experimentation and innovation with the cataloging data, in keeping with the mission and values of the library community, while respecting the investment of OCLC and the library community in this valuable resource.

Contributors to this post: Timothy Vollmer, MacKenzie Smith, Paul Keller, Diane Peters.

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Musician Dan Bull reaches #9 on UK indie charts using CC0

Jane Park, May 2nd, 2012

Dan bull
Dan bull / Tim Dobson / CC BY-SA

Indie musician Dan Bull released “Sharing is Caring” into the public domain using CC0. Recently, “Sharing is Caring” reached #9 on the UK independent chart and #35 on the UK R&B Chart. Creative Commons United Kingdom interviewed Dan about why he chose to release his music for free:

“It’s up to the individual musician what they want to do and it depends on their principles. In the past I have gone the way of having no licensing on my music at all, or where licensing is necessary, I make it known that I have no problem personally with people copying or remixing the music. If you want to encourage fans to engage with your music, re-interpret it and redistribute it on your behalf, then Creative Commons is a good direction to look in.”

For those who don’t know, CC0 is not a license, but a universal public domain dedication that may be used by anyone wishing to permanently surrender the copyright they may have in a work, thereby placing it as nearly as possible into the public domain. As far as we know, Dan is the first musician to break into top music charts with music that is free from copyright restrictions. Let us know if we’re wrong!

Read the full interview with Dan over at the CC UK blog.

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Government and Library Open Data using Creative Commons tools

Jane Park, April 24th, 2012

The last few months has seen a growth in open data, particularly from governments and libraries. Among the more recent open data adopters are the Austrian government, Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research, Italian Chamber of Deputies, and Harvard Library.

Open data
Open data / opensourceway / CC BY-SA

The Austrian government has launched an open data portal with much of its data available under CC BY. The portal’s terms of use states that CC BY is recommended for open data, and that such data will be indicated as CC BY in the data description.

The Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research launched its Open Data Portal under CC BY, publishing the data of Italian schools (such as address, phone number, web site, administrative code), students (number, gender, performance), and teachers (number, gender, retirement, etc.). The Ministry aims to make all of its data eventually available and open for reuse, in order to improve transparency, aid in the understanding of the Italian scholastic system, and promote the creation of new tools and services for students, teachers and families.

The Italian Chamber of Deputies has also developed a platform for publishing linked open data under CC BY-SA.

Lastly, Harvard Library in the U.S. has released 12 million catalog records into the public domain using the CC0 public domain dedication tool. The move is in accordance with Harvard Library’s Open Metadata Policy. The policy’s FAQ states,

“With the CC0 public domain designation, Harvard waives any copyright and related rights it holds in the metadata. We believe that this will help foster wide use and yield developments that will benefit the library community and the public.”

Harvard’s press release cites additional motivations for opening its data,

John Palfrey, Chair of the DPLA, said, “With this major contribution, developers will be able to start experimenting with building innovative applications that put to use the vital national resource that consists of our local public and research libraries, museums, archives and cultural collections.” He added that he hoped that this would encourage other institutions to make their own collection metadata publicly available.

We are excited that CC tools are being used for open data. For questions related to CC and data, see our FAQ about data, which also links to many more governments, libraries, and organizations that have opened their data.

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Nature Publishing Group releases publication data for more than 450,000 articles via CC0

Jane Park, April 5th, 2012

The Public, West Bromwich – Welcome to The Public Entrance Free
Ideal Knot final rendering / Matt Biddulph / CC BY-SA

Yesterday, Nature Publishing Group announced the launch of a new linked data platform, providing access to “20 million Resource Description Framework (RDF) statements, including primary metadata for more than 450,000 articles published by NPG since 1869. The datasets include basic citation information (title, author, publication date, etc) as well as NPG specific ontologies.” All datasets are published using the CC0 public domain dedication, which is not a license, but a legal tool that may be used by anyone wishing to permanently surrender the copyright and database rights (where they exist) they may have in a work, thereby placing it as nearly as possible into the public domain.

This is an excellent move by NPG, especially following an opinion piece they published in 2009 explicitly recommending open sharing and the use of CC0 to put data in the public domain, entitled, “Post-publication sharing of data and tools”:

“Although it is usual practice for major public databases to make data freely available to access and use, any restrictions on use should be strongly resisted and we endorse explicit encouragement of open sharing, for example under the newly available CC0 public domain waiver of Creative Commons.”

Many more organizations and institutions are using CC0 to release their data, which you can peruse at our wiki page for CC0 uses with data and databases. CC licenses are also used for data; read more about this and other issues plus an FAQ on CC and data at http://wiki.creativecommons.org/Data.

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National Libraries and a Museum open up their data using CC0

Jane Park, March 12th, 2012

CC0 has been getting lots of love in the last couple months in the realm of data, specifically GLAM data (GLAM as in Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums). The national libraries of Spain and Germany have released their bibliographic data using the CC0 public domain dedication tool. For those of you who don’t know what that means, it means that the libraries have waived all copyrights to the extent possible in their jurisdictions, placing the data effectively into the public domain. What’s more, the data is available as linked open data, which means that the data sets are available as RDF (Resource Description Framework) on the web, enabling the data to be linked with other data from different sources.


“Open Data Stickers” / Copyright and related rights waived via CC0 by jwyg

The National Library of Spain teamed up with the Ontology Engineering Group (OEG) to create the data portal: datos.bne.es. The datasets can be accessed directly at http://www.bne.es/es/Catalogos/DatosEnlazados/DescargaFicheros.

The National Library of Germany, aka Deutsche Nationalbibliothek (DNB), has documentation on its linked open data under CC0 here. CC Germany reported the move, and a post in English can be found over at Open GLAM.

Relatedly, the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt Museum, a major design museum in New York, has released the collection data for 60% of its documented collection into the public domain, also using CC0. The data set is available on a repository in Github; you can read more about the move at http://www.cooperhewitt.org/collections/data.

To learn more about Creative Commons and data, including a recently updated FAQ, check out http://wiki.creativecommons.org/Data.

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Safecast: Global sensor network collects and shares radiation data via CC0

Jane Park, December 5th, 2011


INTERPOLATION MAP / Lionel Bergeret, Safecast / CC BY-NC

One week after the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Diachi plant in March, the Safecast project was born to respond to the information needs of Japanese citizens regarding radiation levels in their environment. Safecast, then known as RDTN.org, started a campaign on Kickstarter “to provide an aggregate feed of nuclear radiation data from governmental, non-governmental and citizen-scientist sources.” All radiation data collected via the project would be dedicated to the public domain using CC0, “available to everyone, including scientists and nuclear experts who can provide context for lay people.” Since then, more than 1.25 million data points have been collected and shared; Safecast has been featured on PBS Newshour; and the project aims to expand its scope to mapping the rest of the world.

“Safecast supports the idea that more data – freely available data – is better. Our goal is not to single out any individual source of data as untrustworthy, but rather to contribute to the existing measurement data and make it more robust. Multiple sources of data are always better and more accurate when aggregated.

While Japan and radiation is the primary focus of the moment, this work has made us aware of a need for more environmental data on a global level and the longterm work that Safecast engages in will address these needs. Safecast is based in the US but is currently focused on outreach efforts in Japan. Our team includes contributors from around the world.”

To learn more, visit http://safecast.org. All raw data from the project is available for re-use via the CC0 public domain dedication, while other website content (such as photos and text) are available under CC BY-NC.

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Europeana Licensing Framework published

Jane Park, December 2nd, 2011

Yesterday, Europeana — Europe’s digital library, museum and archive, and the first major adopter of the Public Domain Mark for works in the worldwide public domain — published and made available The Europeana Licensing Framework using the CC0 public domain dedication. The licensing framework encompasses and is a follow-on to the recent Data Exchange Agreement that Europeana adopted in September, and which Europe’s national librarians publicly supported weeks later.

In Europeana’s own words, the licensing framework “underpins Europeana’s Strategic Plan” for 2011-2015:

“The goal of the Europeana Licensing Framework is to standardize and harmonize rights-related information and practices. Its intention is to bring clarity to a complex area, and make transparent the relationship between the end-users and the institutions that provide data.”

“Users need good and reliable information about what they may do with [content]. Whether they can freely re-use it for their educational, creative or even commercial projects or not. The Europeana Licensing Framework therefore asks data providers to provide structured rights information in the metadata they provide about the content that is accessible through Europeana. Doing so makes it easier for users to filter content by the different re-use options they have – by ‘public domain’, for example and hence easier for users to comply with licensing terms.”

The framework supports re-use of data and content through CC legal tools (CC0 public domain dedication, the Public Domain Mark, and CC BY-SA), providing guidelines for their appropriate applications. Download the European Licensing Framework (pdf) or peruse the full set of resources at Europeana Connect.

Update

Relatedly, see Europeana’s white paper no. 2 published last month, The Problem of the Yellow Milkmaid: A Business Model Perspective on Open Metadata (pdf). The white paper “explore[s] in detail the risks and rewards of open data from different perspectives” after “extensive consultation with the heritage sector, including dozens of workshops.” It opens:

“‘The Milkmaid’, one of Johannes Vermeer’s most famous pieces, depicts a scene of a woman quietly pouring milk into a bowl. During a survey the Rijksmuseum discovered that there were over 10,000 copies of the image on the internet—mostly poor, yellowish reproductions1. As a result of all of these low-quality copies on the web, according to the Rijksmuseum, “people simply didn’t believe the postcards in our museum shop were showing the original painting. This was the trigger for us to put high-resolution images of the original work with open metadata on the web ourselves. Opening up our data is our best defence against the ‘yellow Milkmaid’.”

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CC News: Metadata for millions of cultural works will be published under CC0

Jane Park, October 6th, 2011

Stay up to date with CC news by subscribing to our weblog and following us on Twitter.

Europeana adopts new data exchange agreement, all metadata to be published under CC0

Europeana — Europe’s digital library, museum and archive, and the first major adopter of the Public Domain Mark for works in the worldwide public domain — has adopted a new Data Exchange Agreement. The agreement, which data providers and aggregators will transition to by the end of 2011, authorizes Europeana to release the metadata for millions of cultural works into the public domain using the CC0 public domain dedication. All metadata for cultural works accessible via the Europeana portal, including previously-delivered metadata, will then be available for free and open re-use. Read more.

New CC Office
Thilo Sarrazin am 3. Juli 2009 by Nina Gerlach
CC BY-SA

Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license enforced in Germany

The Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license (CC BY-SA) has been enforced by a judicial injunction in Germany. Legal analysis will be added to our case law database in the coming days. Till Jaeger reported the case at ifrOSS. The photo at right was used without providing attribution to the photographer and without providing notice of the license used, both core requirements of all CC licenses. This is an exciting ruling for CC, as the attribution and notice requirements are very clearly stated and upheld. Read more.

Prof. Brian Fitzgerald joins the Creative Commons Board

Many of you may be familiar with Brian, who has been the legal lead of CC Australia since 2004 and has made an outstanding contribution to the CC and broader open access communities. Brian’s appointment is a product of the first Affiliate Recommendation Process for Board Candidates, which petitioned members of its Affiliate network to recommend new members of the Board of Directors. Having supervised law students from over 30 different countries in his role as director of the Intellectual Property and Technology Law Clinic at Queensland University of Technology and beyond, Brian brings to the Board not only his own formidable expertise but also that of a significant international network. Read more.

In other news:

  • The Creative Commons Global Summit was a huge success! Read highlights from the event here.
  • Freesound, a collaborative database of nearly 120,000 sounds, launches a complete rewrite of its site, implementing a long-awaited license migration. CC takes this opportunity to retire the Sampling+ licenses. Read more.
  • $500 million is awarded to first round grantees of the U.S. Department of Labor's community college career training program. New learning materials resulting from these funds are required to be licensed under CC BY. Read more.
  • Video creators can now find CC-licensed tracks for their videos via the newly launched Vimeo music store with CC-licensed music curated and provided by the Free Music Archive.
  • The 11th annual Media That Matters Film Festival is premiering on October 27 in New York City. Films from the festival will be made available online after the event under CC BY-NC-ND. Learn more.
  • The winners of the Free! Music! Contest 2011 were announced last month, and published into a 19-track album available for free under CC BY-SA and also for purchase as a CD. Check it out here.
  • Flickr, the ever popular photo-sharing site, reaches the 200 million mark for CC-licensed photos!
  • Lastly, CC announced opportunities last month for two full-time positions: Senior Project Manager and Senior Project Analyst. Applications close this Friday, October 7.

Banner photo is a film still from Europeana Remix by EuropeanaCC BY-SA.

 

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Europe’s national librarians support opening up their data via CC0

Jane Park, October 4th, 2011

Following the exciting news of Europeana’s new data exchange agreement, which authorizes Europeana to release the metadata for millions of cultural works into the public domain using the CC0 public domain dedication, the Conference of European National Librarians (CENL) voted to support the agreement in a meeting last week at the Royal Library of Denmark. CENL represents Europe’s national libraries and “is responsible for the massive collection of publications that represent the accumulated knowledge of Europe.” From the press release,

“It means that the datasets describing all the millions of books and texts ever published in Europe – the title, author, date, imprint, place of publication and so on, which exists in the vast library catalogues of Europe – will become increasingly accessible for anybody to re-use for whatever purpose they want.

Bruno Racine, new Chair of CENL and President of the Bibliothèque nationale de France, and Dr. Elisabeth Niggemann, former Chair of CENL and Director of the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, welcomed the leadership shown by CENL. Dr Niggemann said…‘Only in that way can society derive full social and economic benefit from the data that we’ve created to record Europe’s published output over the past 500 years. The best analogy is between bottled water and a water main. Rather than bottling it and branding it, we’re putting data on tap, so that everyone has free and open access, and can use it for whatever purpose they need.’”

Read more about Europeana’s Data Exchange Agreement.

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Europeana adopts new data exchange agreement, all metadata to be published under CC0

Diane Peters, September 22nd, 2011

Europeana — Europe’s digital library, museum and archive, and the first major adopter of the Public Domain Mark for works in the worldwide public domain — has adopted a new Data Exchange Agreement. The agreement, which data providers and aggregators will transition to by the end of 2011, authorizes Europeana to release the metadata for millions of cultural works into the public domain using the CC0 public domain dedication. All metadata for cultural works accessible via the Europeana portal, including previously-delivered metadata, will then be available for free and open re-use.

Additionally, the new agreement requires data providers to make best efforts to correctly identify content that is public domain as being public domain. Last October, Europeana announced plans to use the PDM as the standard mark for works free of known copyright that are shared via the Europeana portal, playing an important infrastructural role in the EU’s efforts to ensure that all works shared online are marked with rights information.

Europeana has also published non-binding Usage Guidelines that users of the metadata are asked to follow, including a specific request that users “actively acknowledge and give attribution to all the sources” of the metadata.

This is hugely exciting news for CC and open culture! Read more about the Data Exchange Agreement. Congratulations Europeana on your leadership!

Update: Europe’s national librarians support opening up their data via CC0

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