Open Database License (ODbL)

The Open Database License (ODbL) is a license governing a huge collection of database entries designed for free use and distribution. It is based on the Creative Commons License, whereby users are permitted to share and modify content freely as long as they obey a certain set of guidelines put in place by the author of the license. The Creative Commons License agreement serves to protect the work of the original author by allowing them to assign flexible rules governing distribution, while also protecting any subsequent users or distributors of the database or software by protecting them from lawsuits involving breach of copyright, provided that they have actually obeyed the rules laid out in the license.

Why does the ODbL exist?

The ODbL was created in order to allow users to share their data freely without fear of copyright or ownership issues. This system allows users to freely make use of the data contained within the repository without fear of copyright infringement, and to add to the databases using data they have collected, calculated or processed themselves. The point of the license is to clearly define where each and every author and user stands in terms of authorship and usage rights. The license clearly sets out the rights users possess when they make use of the data contained within the database, as well as the correct procedure for attributing credit for the database, and for submitting modified or altered data. With this important stumbling block removed, it becomes much easier to compare and share information and data. Users need no longer live in fear of the repercussions of copyright infringement or stolen information when working under the ODbL.

What are my rights as a user of the ODbL?

When making use of the ODbL, the license provides you with the ability to make copies of, distribute and make use of the database for your own creative purposes, to adapt and modify the database to suit your needs, or to upgrade and update the database with more information. All of your rights maintain intact as long as you obey the rules set out in the license.

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A brief summary of these rules is shown in the list below:

Attribute - The ODbL specifies the way in which the database should be referenced. This reference should be included any time a public broadcast of the information contained within it is made, or conclusions drawn from the information are made. Within any software which is being redistributed along with the database, clear mention of he license must be made and any notices or information provided with the database must be maintained intact and in some easily accessible area.

Share-alike - Under the ODbL license, any adaptations, revisions or additions made to the contents or organisational structure of the database must also be made freely available to other users under the ODbL.

Keep open - Redistribution of any version or any part of the database must be unrestricted. This means that sections of your database can't be protected behind a pay wall. You may include the database as a component of a program designed for commercial distribution, though, as long as the database in its entirety is available for free alongside the commercially available program.

Should I read the license before using the database?

In a word, yes. Although the guidelines above provide you with the general idea of what is contained within the license, it is by no means a substitute for a thorough reading of the text of document itself. This is especially important for those who wish to create a commercially available product in which the database must be used. The complete license can be found on the Open Data Commons website, and is definitely worth a read for any user seriously considering making use of this free tool.

With the information provided above, you should be armed with all the tools you need to make full use of the incredible tool that is the open source database provided by Open Data Commons. This huge collection of information can form an integral part of a whole host of applications, and can bring some of your ambitions projects to life. It could even be used to test a data processing or analysis program of your own design. For this reason, familiarity with the ODbL license is of the utmost importance for those wishing to make use of this feature in their own works.