My background with open/free licensing is only within FOSS. An example of category differences within FOSS is Copyleft/Permissive. There is a variety of licenses even within these categories. GPL, MIT License, and Apache License are the first that come to mind.

These questions are great when it comes to Creative Commons Licensing:

However, I don't want to assume that Creative Commons is the only option when it comes to licensing Open Data.

Are there multiple categories of Open Data licensing, and how do they differ?

2 Answers 2


Here are the three options listed on opendatacommons.org, the licenses FAQ also has a bunch of really good information.

There is an here is an interview of Steve Coast (OpenStreetMap's founder)

Steve Coast: Licensing is incredibly important for the community to trust that the data won’t be closed off. So we need to make sure that data from OpenStreetMap will always be free and open. It’s also important that we are able to stop anyone from trying to close it off or derive from it without giving back to the community. We have a multi-year process to re-license based on advice from multiple sources that Creative Commons is not applicable to data. We wish it were, and it probably will be in the future but it wasn’t clear when we began. Until that happens we have a process to move to the Open Database License, which explicitly covers data and not just creative works like photographs or text. The ODbL was in fact started as a result of investigations around the needs of Science Commons and we just helped it to its conclusion.

Here is a guide (incomplete) from opendatacommons.ors on how licensing applies to data from different fields and different countries.

  • Are these the only options for licensing? If so, why should one be chosen over the others? Do they each have specific uses, or do they all perform the same way? Commented May 14, 2013 at 2:22
  • 2
    @CaesiumFarmer if you wanted to you could make up your own license. These licenses are just prepackaged and commonly used ones.
    – John
    Commented May 14, 2013 at 2:26
  • @CaesiumFarmer, to better answer your question no these aren't the only options, if you wanted to you could make up your own license. Another thing to consider is that the concept of open data isn't as well developed as open software. As time goes on you can expect a wider variety of licensing options to show up.
    – John
    Commented May 14, 2013 at 2:46
  • Thank you for responding. After asking this question, I thought about it more. I'm not sure if this question adds any value to the site. Please see my meta post for more information. Commented May 14, 2013 at 2:48
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    Maybe this question is useful only in providing a launching pad for links to pages with information about the various licenses. But it's a better launchpad than blogs or news sites because the whole community can build the answer up until it's full and complete. So I respectfully disagree. (Which I suppose means I should vote your question up. :-)
    – Roger_S
    Commented May 14, 2013 at 3:34

I also recommend the 'Examples of Open Licenses' section of the recently released Project Open Data as well as this thread in the associated issue tracker.

(Disclaimer - I am the Sr. API Strategist for GSA)

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