The NEH funded Pleiades discussion list recently picked up on my last post about copyright and scientific data. Several contributors to that list had important points and resources to add, especially about geospatial data. These include:

  • Here’s an interesting post by Chris Holmes, “Promoting freely available geodata“. It touches on many of these themes, and also notes that Creative Commons and Science Commons is reluctant to develop licensing mechanisms around factual data. He also explores some of the policy implications of “copyleft”-type contracts that are not based on copyright law.
  • Another contributor to the Pleiades discussion list rightly pointed out that geospatial data sees very different legal regulatory frameworks internationally. I should also add that the EU has greater copyright protection for database content than the US. James Boyle (who’s on the Board of Creative Commons), wrote an interesting piece in the Financial Times about how the EU database protection laws have not helped the European database industry. This perspective helps explain why Creative Commons and Science Commons are very reluctant to get involved in licensing factual data. “Protecting” such content with licenses (even with “some rights reserved” licenses) may do more damage than good.

Aside from the fact that it seems we all need some good lawyers, these discussions help illustrate the importance of community social norms. Scholars are already (largely) a self-regulating community. Inviting in lawyers to craft custom licenses and contracts may not make the most sense, unless the law directly impedes our work (as is the case with standard “all rights reserved” copyright, where Creative Commons licenses are a vast improvement). Developing positive social norms is something of an art, but there are many examples of successful online communities. Hopefully we can learn from these examples and adapt them to help make open research in everyone’s enlightened self-interest.

Additional Note:

Before someone else points out my error, I was remiss in not linking to the original blog post over at the Open Knowledge Foundation that started all this discussion. Jamie Boyle’s article is already well discussed in this first post! It clearly pays to thoroughly read one’s primary sources before posting to a weblog. My apologies!