Recommendations on licensing. Summary

This is a summary of the investigation into licensing frameworks which can be used by institutions to publish content (original creative material), data (collection of information), metadata (description of data) or software tools online.

Before publishing a product, it is important to first carefully consider whether there are any right resting on (part of) it. If the product or part of it has been created by an agent outside of the institution it might be copyrighted. In that case it is necessary to investigate whether the rights on the product have been expired (depending on jurisdiction) and whether the product was originally published with a license.

In case the rights have been expired, the product in its original form cannot be licensed, but if it has been enriched with additional information, the additions can be licensed as a derivative work. Databases and collections of metadata can also be licensed regardless of what they contain (e.g. copyrighted content or factual knowledge).
We have not been able to identify general frameworks for commercial licensing. This has probably to do with the fact that there are many complex factors involved like business models, market dynamics, customer segments. Therefore, commercial licenses in most cases need to be tailor-made. A number of conditions that could be part of a commercial license is provided in the full report on licensing recommendations

For non-commercial licensing there are general frameworks available. We consider the cases of content, data/metadata and software in separation because we have not been able to find frameworks that cover them all.

For content we recommend the Creative Commons framework because Creative Commons is much in use and our survey among institutions point to a preference for the restrictions possible to impose by the Creative Commons license (e.g. BY-NC-ND). Using a license that is widely in use will contribute to the interoperability among institutions and other parties.

For data and metadata we recommend the Open Data Commons Attribution License (ODC-BY) or the Creative Commons (version 4.0) BY License. A special case is given to metadata that is published in digital libraries – we then recommend using Europeana Licensing Framework to make the information available in the Europeana portal.

Finally, for software we propose the GNU Public License (GPL) v3.0, GNU Library or Lesser General Public License (LGPL) v3.0 or Apache License v2.0. The specific license should be selected based on the approach of the tool provider (more restrictive or more permissive).

The table presented below summarizes recommendations for non-commercial licensing. It does not contain commercial licensing, because as already mentioned, commercial licensing is highly dependent on different factors (e.g. business models, customer segments) and did not create any publicly available and common approaches shared among different companies.

Type of assetRecommendationComments
ContentCreative Commons v4.0 Popular licensing framework, addresses most of the needs of content holding institutions.
Data and metadata Open Data Commons v1.0
Creative Commons v4.0
Europeana Licensing Framework
Open Data Commons and Creative Commons v4.0 are for general purpose use. Europeana Licensing Framework is recommended for metadata that can be harvested by external parties, it means in practice that metadata need to be published with Creative Commons Zero Public Domain Dedication license.
SoftwareGNU General Public License v3.0
GNU Library or Lesser General Public License v3.0
Apache License v2.0
The license should be determined based on the requirements from the tools provider: GNU GPL v3.0 is a strong copyleft license, GNU LGPL v3.0 is a partial copyleft, while Apache License v2.0 is a permissive license.