4 Licensing principles and practice

4.1 Why are licences necessary?

A licence is a mechanism that gives people and organisations permission to re-use information and other material that is protected by copyright or database right.  A licence should also provide clarity on the rights being granted, as to what users and re-users are permitted to do and whether there are any restrictions on the extent of that permission.  In the context of the UKGLF, the licences ensure that users are aware of the need to use the information in a responsible manner and not in ways which mislead others, misrepresent the information or suggest endorsement by a public sector body.

A licence is not required for information where copyright or database right have expired, or where information does not attract copyright or database right (otherwise known as works in the public domain).

4.2 Third party rights

Public sector bodies can only license the re-use of information in which:

  • they own the copyright and/or database right; or
  • they have been authorised by the owner to license its re-use.

Where the public sector body does not have the authority to license, the onus will be on the re-user to contact the copyright/database right owner for permission to re-use.

4.3 Acquired rights

Often public sector bodies will have acquired rights by licence to use information for specific purposes.  This often occurs in the context of photographs which are commissioned by a public sector body.  For example, a public sector body may have obtained the rights to publish a photograph for education and non-commercial purposes only.  In these circumstances, the public sector body would not be able to license the re-use of the photograph for wider use.

4.4 Identification of third party rights

In the interests of transparency, when a public sector body publishes or supplies information, that body should where practicable, identify any part of the information in which rights are owned by a third party and if there are limitations on the use and re-use of this information.  This will have the following benefits:

  • the re-user will know who to contact to obtain permission;
  • the re-user will know what limitations, if any, there may be on re-use;
  • the re-user will know what information falls outside the scope of the UKGLF; and
  • it will reduce the liability and risk for the re-user and the public sector body.

The question of third party rights also arises in the context of derived data.

4.5 Derived data

Derived data is a term that is used to describe new datasets or information that have been created using an existing dataset or information asset as its source.

Where, during the creation of new data, an existing dataset or information asset, including data attribution or textual content, has been:

  • copied;
  • replicated;
  • reproduced; and
  • generalised.

Data could be considered to be derived if it encapsulates a significant proportion of the original, or source, data.

As the derived data would be protected by copyright and/or database right, each user in the information chain would need to be appropriately licensed.

Where individuals and organisations intend to make derived data available, whether to other public sector bodies or to others, they need to understand the relevant terms and conditions relating to any third party rights and the practical implications.

4.6 Compatibility and openness

The Open Government Licence is intended to be compatible with the Creative Commons and Open Data Commons Attribution licences that are recognised by the information community and used internationally.

The Open Government Licence also conforms to the Open Definition principles.

4.7 Machine-readable licensing

Machine readability in the context of licensing means the ability for a computer to extract a description of the terms and conditions from a licence document.  This allows, for instance, a computer program to query whether a machine-readable licence permits commercial re-use or whether it requires an attribution statement.  It then becomes possible to determine quickly whether two datasets are licensed under compatible terms and conditions.  As such it is seen as an important step in enabling the large scale integration of datasets from different sources.

The Open Government Licence and the Non-Commercial Government Licence include a summary of their terms in a simple, machine-readable format which will continue to be developed as more descriptions and ontologies become available.

4.8 Licence hyperlinks

It is helpful to tell search engines, like Google, that the links to the Open Government Licence and the Non-Commercial Government Licence are to licences, and not general links. There is a special way to do this in HTML, by using the rel="license" attribute. This will flag up with web crawlers and other internet users using automated systems that the information is subject to a licence with particular terms and conditions which can be found by following the link.  For further information on this method, please see: microformats.org/wiki/rel-license.

Where, possible, information providers should point to the permanent identifier for the Open Government Licence by embedding the following link:

<a href="http://reference.data.gov.uk/id/open-government-licence" rel="license">Open Government Licence</a>

Alternatively, where information providers do not use the rel="license" attribute, they can put in a simple hyperlink:

<a href="www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/open-government-licence/version/2">Open Government Licence</a> 

For the Non-Commercial Government Licence the following permanent identifier should be used:

<a href="http://reference.data.gov.uk/id/non-commercial-government-licence" rel="license">Non-Commercial Government Licence</a>

Alternatively, where Information Providers do not use the rel="license" attribute, they can put in a simple hyperlink:

<a href="http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/non-commercial-government-licence">Non-Commercial Government Licence</a>