Open Source Decision Models

Chuck Swiger chuck at
Fri Mar 5 00:46:12 UTC 2010

Hi, Somik--

Somik Raha wrote:
> Hi Folks,
> I'm a Phd student in the area of decision analysis and have been making 
> decision models for public safety that I'd like to put out there for 
> administrators working on such issues, to help clarify their thinking. 
> Most of this work is in the form of Excel models. I want to go the 
> open-source route - but I don't know of any license that can be put on 
> excel models. The closest seems to be a modified form of the LGPL for 
> Excel macros. The intellectual property that I want to protect is in the 
> wiring of the spreadsheet and sometimes in the macros.
> Would love to hear suggestions. Here are the two alternatives I've come 
> up with so far:
> 1) Come up with a new open-source license for the content of spreadsheet 
> files in general
> 2) Come up with a new open-source license for Decision Models (this 
> includes the idea of the model, as represented in powerpoint slides, 
> spreadsheet models or code). 

First, you should review your student handbook and discuss this with your PhD 
advisor to be sure you are the one to make the decision.  You might discover 
that your university claims ownership of IP developed by students using their 
facilities.  (Ask first, and get it in writing beforehand to avoid surprises.)

Secondly, at least here in the USA, pure facts / data are not protectable, but 
  creative arrangements of the data and the code written for your macros 
likely are.  This said, almost all programs consist of a combination of code 
and data, and existing licenses should be applicable to your case without 
needing to create a new license.

Which licenses you might want to consider depends on whether you want to make 
this freely available without restrictions (in which case, simple permissive 
licenses like BSD/MIT are good, the Academic Free License is also a 
possibility) or if you want to copyleft the licensed material under the 
GPL/LGPL; the creative commons licenses are another possibility, except that 
they mostly contain more restrictions like "no derivative works" or 
"non-commercial" which prevent them from being OSI open source.

If your circumstances are truly unique, and no existing license seems to suit 
your needs, then you might consider writing your own license, but please avoid 
doing that unless you really need to.  :-)


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