New Open Government licence

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, 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.)

5 thoughts on “New Open Government licence”

  1. @Simon Dickson: Thanks for the feedback! Always very welcome!
    @Carl Morris: Good question, thanks for asking and I’ll do my best to give our reasoning for developing the Open Government Licence rather than simply adopting Creative Commons.
    As you’ll see the OGL is a very similar to Creative Commons and Open Data Commons, as we felt they really good models examples to work from. We did look extensively at adopting Creative Commons licences and worked with Creative Commons through the process. However, we developed our own licence for a number of reasons, and I’ll try to cover the main ones below:
    · We needed the licence to cover both copyright and database rights – Creative Commons covers copyright only and Open Data Commons covers database right. Having two licences apply side by side to a large proportion of the information being published by the public sector would be overly complex for the user and for the public sector doing the licensing. The OGL is one licence which covers a wide range of information and content types protected by copyright and/or database right, including source code.
    · We needed a licence that can cover all jurisdictions in the UK, including Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland – the Creative Commons UK licence is still forthcoming.
    · We wanted the licence to be a simple as possible under one set of terms and conditions rather than having a simple summary on the surface and lengthier, more complex conditions underneath this. The OGL presents summary examples (in the ‘You are free to:’ section), as well as the more legal necessities in just one licence document.
    · We have ensured that the OGL is compatible with Creative Commons and Open Data Commons attribution licences.
    I hope this is helpful. We do really appreciate feedback and will be beginning a review shortly.
    Beth Brook, The National Archives

  2. Hi Simon, Beth. I agree that OGL is a big step forward, esp in relation to explicitly encouraging commercial exploitation of public information. As someone (a civ servant) who creates and manages gov photo content on Flickr though, I’m a bit confused as to exactly what ‘interoperable’ with CC-Attribution means? If uploading a crown copyright image to Flickr for instance, can this just now be posted under CC-A license, or do we have to include crown copyright statement and/or ref/link to OGL as well?

  3. @Simon – Thanks for your posting about my reply! I am very glad that is was useful and very glad to oblige.
    @russellphoto – Thank you for your comments.
    ‘Interoperable’ with Creative Commons’ means that information used under the Open Government Licence can be combined with information licensed under Creative Commons or with another work. This means that information can be mixed and re-purposed easily with other licence models which require attribution in that the terms of the Open Government Licence should not present any barriers.
    Government photo content will be subject to Crown copyright (if created by an ‘officer or servant of the Crown in the course of his [or her] duties’- see The National Archives pages on Crown copyright) and so should be licensed under the Open Government Licence – there is guidance for information providers about copyright statements and how to reference and link to the OGL here:
    I hope you find this useful. Please do get in contact with me and the Information Policy Team at The National Archives if you have any more queries or want to discuss via [email protected].

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