free database licenses

Tom Hull thull at
Tue Nov 27 19:40:28 UTC 2001

I would like to collect some information about copyright and
licensing issues for databases. The intent is to build large
stores of data, such as music discography. Such databases
would not necessarily be centralized, but should be inter-
operable. For example, someone could extract the relevant
discography for celtic music and build up that database;
someone else might then want to merge the celtic music
database into a more general world music database; someone
else could try to pull everything back together again.

Some of the issues here include:

 * What data is or is not copyrightable? Does this vary by
   jurisdiction? How to deal with a database which contains
   a mix of copyrightable and noncopyrightable data?

 * Same for database schemas and APIs. (The software layers
   above this are, I think, well understood.)

 * Are there any well understood rules that determine when
   a database is considered a derived work from another
   database? (IOW, is there a legal basis for enforcing
   a copyleft license?)

 * Are there any political issues that may influence a
   choice of license? (E.g., I seem to recall lobbying
   efforts to give private database owners special IP

 * Are there existing licenses that have been applied to
   databases? What is the experience with such licenses?

This question comes up regarding the MusicBrainz project,
which originally used the Open Content License, and is now
considering changing its licensing.

 *  Tom Hull * thull at *
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