Way back in January, I noted OPSI’s commitment to replace the Click-Use Licence with something closely resembling the Creative Commons ‘by’ licence. Following its early introduction on data.gov.uk, it’s now been formally launched – and already, departments are altering their terms & conditions to reflect it.
Officially named the Open Government Licence, it states in remarkably straightforward terms that ‘you are encouraged (!) to use and re-use the Information that is available under this licence … freely and flexibly’. It has been defined to be legally ‘interoperable’ with the Creative Commons Attribution Licence, sharing a certain amount of its language – and even bears a mild visual resemblance to it, which is a smart move in itself.
As I’ve mentioned before, it doesn’t legally move the goalposts very much, I don’t think: but so much of this is in the presentation, and the culture change that it hopes to deliver. ‘Crown copyright’ sounds a lot more scary and protective than it really ever is/was. Even just the name ‘open government licence’ changes the whole tone.
There’s quite extensive guidance on the National Archives website, which should help departments appreciate what it all means: including, I’m delighted to note, some sample copyright statements.
The implications are perhaps best demonstrated by the brevity of the first few answers on the FAQ page:
Do I need written confirmation to use information under the Open Government Licence?
No. The Open Government Licence is an implied licence. By using information made available under the licence you indicate that you have accepted its terms and conditions.
Do I have to register for an Open Government Licence?
No. There is no need to register or formally apply for a licence, unlike the previous Click-Use Licence. Users simply need to ensure that their use of information complies with the Open Government Licence terms.
Are there any fees for using information made available under the Open Government Licence?
There are no charges for using information under the Open Government Licence.
How long does the Open Government Licence last?
Unless you breach its terms, the Open Government Licence is a perpetual licence.
It’s precisely the kind of brain-dead simplicity we’ve needed in this field. Innovators simply don’t want to wade through pages/screens of legal-ese, just to know if they’re allowed to play with your material. (Instead, they’ll probably go off and innovate with someone else’s.)