Much of the potential value of data is to society at large — more data has the potential to facilitate enhanced scientific collaboration and reproducibility, more efficient markets, increased government and corporate transparency, and overall to speed discovery and understanding of solutions to planetary and societal needs.
A big part of the potential value of data, in particular its society-wide value, is realized by use across organizational boundaries. How does this occur (legally)? Many sites give narrow permission to use data via terms of service. Much ad hoc data sharing occurs among researchers. And increasingly, open data is facilitated by sharing under public terms to manage copyright restrictions that might otherwise limit dissemination or reuse of data, e.g. CC licenses or the CC0 public domain dedication.
Below are links to case studies of organizations, institutions, and governments using CC tools for data. You can also read more about Creative Commons' most up-to-date thinking on data and databases, and what you can do to contribute.
Creative Commons licenses are and always have been available for use with data and databases. CC licenses enable rightsholders to share their works while requiring users to abide by chosen conditions for uses that implicate copyright law. Many organizations currently license their data and databases with CC. Data and databases are subject to the same standards of copyrightability as any creative work; copyright restricts uses of fixed, creative expression regardless of form or medium. It is often difficult to tell whether a work is creative enough for copyright to attach, and our experience tells us that when users are uncertain they tend to follow the license conditions. However, to the extent copyright does not restrict uses under applicable law, for instance in connection with use of single pieces of purely factual data, CC licenses do not limit that use.
In addition to copyright licenses, Creative Commons also offers CC0, a universal public domain dedication that provides rightsholders with the means to permanently remove all copyright and other restrictions (such as sui generis database rights) from data and databases to the greatest extent possible, thereby placing it in as nearly as possible in the worldwide public domain. Many organizations currently release their data and databases for use with CC0. CC particularly recommends CC0 for use in connection with publicly funded science data, though it is used for a number of other categories of works as well.