San Francisco currently has a custom data license that covers all datasets in our catalog. This approach has several drawbacks that hinder public access to data:
- Diminished usage of datasets due to potential ambiguity of rights
- Larger operational costs due to more frequent inquiries
- Improper assignment of rights due to lack of granularity
Standard data licenses such as Creative Commons 0 or Public Domain Dedication and License are critical for enabling others to build upon existing knowledge and works. When given clear and understandable usage rights, the community can use government data in a way that produces new and innovative services.
San Francisco should consider adopting a standard data license. The license should be applied to individual datasets to ensure an appropriate license is used. Additionally, applying license at a dataset level allows us to generate Creative Commons metadata which describes the key license elements that apply and enable discovery through CC-enabled search engines. The actual creation of the license could be an automated process when submitting a dataset on DataSF.
The benefits of adopting a standard license are:
- Improved access to datasets
- International acceptance and recognition of license
- Promotes adoption in other government organizations
San Francisco is currently meeting with Creative Commons to better understand their licenses and how best to implement if that is the path forward.
With technology enabling low-cost distribution of government data, copyright law is one of the last barriers to a truly open government.