I just discovered opencorporates.com, and they boast of being "open data" with these properties:

  • The database is not published
  • Downloading the data through the API 1 time in 1 year will cost around $1 million.

Those are some massive barriers to using the data.

Can you help me understad how opencorporates is "open data"?

  • It's indeed shameless to call something "open" that can neither be downloaded, editted, or even trace its origin. It's as closed as can be. Promoting the "open" on their website is clearly misleading. I guess it was a way to grab governmental grants or something alike.
    – dagnelies
    Aug 5, 2021 at 10:35

1 Answer 1


That's a great question. Seems like the data itself is under an open license but the company charges for API access to it, presumably for the effort they've gone to consolidate the data and for running the API service. See the legal info https://opencorporates.com/legal/licence and in particular the "The OpenCorporates database" section of the page.

The OpenCorporates database is licensed under the Open Database License. A plain language summary of the ODbL is available on the Open Data Commons website.

We source the information in our databases from government and other sources through a variety of means including: directly from government websites and APIs, from publicly available datasets, or through Freedom of Information requests. We spend a lot of time, effort, and even money in getting this data and turning it into a workable and highly usable resource.

We do not claim any rights over the information we receive from our government sources, and attribute them whenever possible. This is known as the "Contents" in the ODbL license.

We do however claim rights over our database of this information.

What's interesting in that document is that there is mention of free API access in addition to paid access but I could not find any additional information access.

We offer free access to our website and API, and also paid-for access to our API. If you have agreed to a paid-for contract for use of the API, these terms and conditions supplement that contract and, in cases of conflict, the wording of the paid-for contract will take precedence.

I welcome edits to expand this answer and hope someone else can also give a better explanation.

  • 2
    It fails the 1.2 Access definition at opendefinition.org/od/2.1/en
    – user239558
    Dec 3, 2019 at 18:05
  • 1
    Yes I understand that they do not fit that definition of "open data". I'm simply offering up a potential explanation to reason why they call themselves "OpenCorporates" and claim their data is open (due to the Open Database License). Not defending, just offering my 2 cents.
    – sboysel
    Dec 3, 2019 at 18:29

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