free database licenses

Steve Mallett steve at
Sun Nov 25 12:23:26 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:

>  * 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
>    protections.)

Some.  One issue is will people trust that when they contribute to your 
database that you won't change the license of its use.  This can mean a 
couple things... access to the data they gave you!, price of retrieving that 
data, price of contributing (believe it or not, but think of yahoo et al)  

One way I've combated this (and it's a damn good idea anyway) is by writting 
a social contract (built on the debian one) outlining what conditions the 
database is built under _and_ getting the data out of your sole control (xml 
or whatever you choose) thereby _not_ being a 'private database owner'.  
Afterall, what good is it if no one sees it?  Here's the link:

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

I use the GFDL as a license for the database when actually distributed & have 
had nothing but pleasant comments.  There is a part of the GFDL allowing 
'front text' or something of that nature which I use to ask people to label 
their display of the OSD database with a link back to OSD.  It is a very 
handy marketing tool, I think, and helps build the database by pointing 
people to the contribution point.

Please stay in touch with me _if_ you decide on something like what I've 
proposed.  I'm always looking for 'social contract' issues I may not have 

Steve Mallett | Stable, Open-Source Apps 
steve at | 
webmaster at   <GPG, Voice, etc.>

"Non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as cooperation with good."
        -- Mohandas Gandhi

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