Open Knowledge

Defining Open in Open Data, Open Content and Open Knowledge
31 January 2013 by Mike Linksvayer

Below is feedback submitted today on behalf of the Open Definition Advisory Council regarding Canada’s proposed Open Government Licence Agreement. Thanks especially to Andrew Stott for substantial contributions to this feedback, Herb Lainchbury (currently the AC’s sole Canadian member; also see his personal blog entry on OGL-C) for pushing the AC on the pertinent issues over the past year, and Tracey Lauriault for bringing the comment period for the OGL-C to our attention.

Thank you for opportunity to provide feedback on the Proposed Open Government Licence Agreement.

The Open Knowledge Definition (OKD) sets out principles to define ‘openness’ in relation to content and data such that the “open” in open access, data, education, and government remains meaningful and interoperable. The OKD is led by an international Advisory Council.

We congratulate you for your excellent work. In particular we commend the absence of the two most problematic items found in the OGL-UK (“ensure that you do not mislead…” and “ensure that your use of the Information does not breach [data protection and privacy acts]”); such terms are redundant and harm interoperability.

A similar, further improvement we suggest is to move “ensure that you do not use the Information in a way that suggests any official status or that the Information Provider endorses you or your use of the Information” from a licence condition to an exemption. This subtle change would ensure OKD compliance, and remove an unnecessary barrier to interoperability with other open licences.

Finally, we have three comments about items in the exemptions section:

  1. “This Licence does not grant you any right to use: … Information subject to other intellectual property rights, including patents and trademarks.” This might be placed even more strongly in the exemption category if merely stating that no patents are trademark permissions are granted, rather than removing any right to use information subject to any of these.
  2. It is unclear what “does not grant you any right to use…domain names of the Licensor;” means; control of a domain name is orthogonal to data licensing, and limitations on linking to URLs in a domain are harmful to an open Internet. To the extent that there needs to be protection it is already covered by the generic statement on trademarks.
  3. The complete exclusion of “personal data” raises the issue of personal data which is a matter of public record, for instance the names of senior officials or the names of Directors in a company registry. This is also an issue in OGL-UK. Some of these downstream uses may constitute “unfair processing” in terms (in the UK) of the Data Protection Act (eg using the data for a junk mailing list), but that is a matter for general law not the licence. At the moment the licence would seem not to cover any use of personal data such as published names.

We are available to expand on our suggestions as needed and to continue to help the Government of Canada on the drafting of the licence.

Open Definition Advisory Council
[email protected]