Support GBIF in choosing CC0 + norms

Changes proposed by GBIF regarding data licensing are a tremendous step forward.

• Peter Desmet

Image by Peter Desmet

Last year, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) asked what license(s) should be chosen for GBIF-mediated data. This triggered 32 responses (including my own) with the following key messages:

  1. The proposed copyright licensing model (e.g. CC licenses) may not be a suitable mechanism to control or restrict use, as the type of data published through GBIF falls in a legal ‘grey area’. These data may not in fact be eligible for copyright at all, at least in some jurisdictions. Deciding this point may also be complicated by the types of content offered, particularly when video, image or other multimedia content is included. GBIF were advised not to contribute to misunderstanding by promoting licenses which may not be legally actionable.
  2. There is a strong desire by some (about one third of the respondents) to attempt to restrict access for commercial use. However, as some discussed in their responses, it is very difficult to agree or define what constitutes commercial use.
  3. Many of the concerns expressed relate to the need for better attribution. It is suggested that, rather than asserting a copyright license, GBIF should focus with high urgency on improving citation and tracking data use.

In response to this, GBIF has issued a second consultation call, with a set of proposed changes which are in my opinion a tremendous step forward1. These include adopting CC0 for all data2, educating the community, drafting community norms, allowing publishers to at least express the wish that data should not used for commercial gain, and building tools to facilitate citation, attribution, and data use tracking.

If you want to support GBIF in taking these necessary steps towards open biodiversity data, please reply to the consultation, even (or especially) if you are not part of the GBIF community. The deadline for replying is June 14.

  1. The proposed changes go even further than my wish list and include a realistic proposal for the non-commercial use issue. 

  2. VertNet now also strongly recommends CC0 for data in the recently published “Quick guide to copyright and licenses for dataset publication”, in addition to Canadensys and others.