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Re: A Data License

On Thu, May 20, 1999 at 02:48:46PM -0700, Matt.Wilkie wrote:
> Hi,
> I'm a Geographic Information System tech and I'm about to release a bunch
> of
> digital map data, in this case specifically Digital Elevation Models. I'd
> like to use some kind of "free software" like license, but am bewildered
> by the various forms available and legal-speak.
> The DEMs now in question were originally acquired from the public domain. 
> I've translated them into a different format and renamed them. As time
> goes on I will be fixing some of them (obviously inaccurate or similar
> problems), and adding other forms of related data to the collection. Some
> will be entirely of my own creation, some will be harvested from the PD
> (or similar collections).

How about using the XFree86 license, with "Software" replaced by "Data Set"

> The license I'd like should:
>     - be free of charge, money for distribution and handling is okay

A license that prohibits selling is in danger of becoming non-free unless
said clause is so weak as to be ineffective anyway. Since your version of
the software is available for free, simple economics will keep other
versions at closer cost. If you're concerned about high priced proprietary
deriviative works popping up, you might want to consider using the Free
Software Foundation's documentation license or the GNU GPL for your data
set. This will ensure that all derived works continue to be free. 

>     - have freedom to modify and change and combine with other data

If the "other data" is non-free as you mention below, a license like the FSF
documentation license or the GNU GPL would make combination with it
difficult. You'll have to think carefully of the trade-off between
the risk of proprietary derivatives and the benefit of combining proprietary
data into the set. 

>     - keep original sources of data & copyright notices in all distributions

No license I know of lets you tamper with the copyright and license notices. 

>     - nature and type of modifications/additions must be noted and described

Section 2a of the GNU General Public License requires this. 

>     - be as close to natural language/common sense as possible (a user 
>       shouldn't have to ask debian-legal what it means! ;-)

The GPL is in fairly simple language, with a preamble in very simple terms.

>     - not be Yet Another License if at all possible


> which is all pretty close to existing free software licenses. The areas
> where I'm not so clear on what I desire deal with the combination of
> commercial/ proprietary and private/free data.

The XFree86 license would make combination with non-free data very easy.
Whenever you release a non-free version, the free license would simply not
apply to non-free portions of the data set.

If you're merely planning to release something like a set of overlays for a
map (for example, one showing railroad tracks, another post offices, a third
major waterways), these could be distributed with the original map data
without creating a derived work. 

> I'd like to -strongly- encourage the growth of free data (as in liberty
> and beer), but not necessarily discourage commercial growth. Basically my
> standpoint here is: there is not enough free high-quality/resolution map
> data available, especially when it comes to satellite and air photo
> imagery. I'm hoping to help create an environment where a "free" release
> is considered first, or at least seriously.

Best of luck. I'm thinking the XFree86 license would best suit the type of
work you're planning to do. However, I think using the FSF documentation
license or GNU GPL would encourage the production of more Free Software over
the integration of free map data into proproprietary products. 

Brian Ristuccia

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