License proliferation

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Do not recreate the wheel!

Governments around the world are using standard, legally interoperable tools like Creative Commons licenses and public domain instruments to share a wide range of content they produce or fund the production of, including public sector information, scientific research, cultural content, and educational materials. This page explains some of the benefits for governments choosing to publish content under Creative Commons tools instead of creating their own custom government license.

Assumption: Governments want to share public sector information and other digital resources

Disseminating useful information globally is aligned with the mission and work of most public sector bodies. Information and content that governments create or fund to create can be made maximally useful to the diverse communities they serve, helping citizens, other government agencies, civic institutions, and businesses across all sectors. It puts the money of governments where their mouth is, working to maximize the efficiency of public spending, encouraging access and reuse of publicly funded content, and promoting economic activity by communicate liberal reuse rights in advance.

Governments need to communicate legal rights in easy-to-understand fashion so that content will be reused

Materials like reports, photographs and videos released under the default All Rights Reserved copyright require the end user to ask permission in order to use the resource in the absence of some applicable exception or limitation under applicable copyright law. This framework means governments must dedicate resources to review and approve those requests. From the user perspective, the time and effort required to obtain the permission can be significant. Many government websites have Terms of Service (TOS) containing information about copyright or other intellectual property rights of content available on those sites. But posting government information online without explicit legal information about the rights available to users will have chilling effects on the resue of such information. Other governments have created Open Government Licenses that on the surface seem similar to Creative Commons licenses but which might contain slight variations or different conditions that destroy interoperability with standard public licenses like CC.

Standard legal tools like CC helps clarify rights to users in advance

Creative Commons licenses lower the transaction costs normally associated with seeking and granting permission to use resources by granting limited permission in advance. Creative Commons licenses have desirable features that make them the preferred choice over custom licenses. CC licenses are standard and interoperable, which means works published by different authors using the same type of CC license can be translated, modified, compiled and/or remixed depending on the particular license applied. Creative Commons licenses are also machine-readable, allowing CC-licensed works to be easily discovered via search engines such as Google. These features maximize distribution, reuse and impact of works published by governments and IGOs.

  • insert general information about how CC licenses work
  • three layer approach
  • licenses as well as public domain tools

CC licenses already address the *actionable* concerns that governments have about sharing public sector information

No license can address bad actors

Why specifically should custom licenses be avoided

other information