Open Science Preconditions: Legal issues II: Licensing

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VO Sharing is daring: Open Science approaches to Digital Humanities

Please read the lesson script below and complete the tasks.

Questions, remarks, issues? Participate in the Zoom meeting on Mon, 20.04.2020, 5 p.m. - 6 p.m.!
This week's topic of discussion:
What is the best license and why?

Mon, 20.04., 16:45 - 18:15: Open Science Preconditions: Legal issues II: Licensing[Bearbeiten]

Welcome back! You hopefully enjoyed the holidays and had some time for digital learning detox. However, I do hope you remember a few of the things we spoke about before the break, as we heavily depend on our knowledge about copyright and Urheber*innenrecht to understand the nature and conditions of (open) licensing.

Task 1[Bearbeiten]

If you didn't have a chance to attend the session on copyright or want to remind yourself of the topics we discussed, please refer once more to the video "Open Science Basics: Copyright and Licensing" --> slides, which you watched for our last session (task 3). To get acquainted with this week's topic as well, watch it to the end this time.
For a more comprehensive overview of all important issues in the area of licensing (in German), please refer to the video "Public Licenses" --> slides p. 57ff.

We already came across licenses in our first sessions, when we discussed definitions of "Openness" and the question how a "work" (which we learned to define according to Urheber*innenrecht in the last session) can be "opened up". We remember that a work and the right to do anything with it (except for a few, very narrowly defined copyright exceptions) is owned by its creator (respectively their heirs), so it is by default a pretty closed thing. In order for the work to become an "open work", the Open Definition names as the very first requirement that the work must have an "Open License or Status".

Task 2[Bearbeiten]

We will define the term "Open License" according to the Open Definition shortly - but what is meant by "Open Status"? Read the Open Definition and find out!

But before we discuss the concept of "open licenses" in detail, we first have to establish what a "license", be it open or not, even is. A license is a legal concept that has some familiarity with a contract. Let's open our dictionaries:

"A contract is a legally binding agreement that recognises and governs the rights and duties of the parties to the agreement." (Wikipedia: contract)

As you are aware, a contract has to be signed by all parties involved on order for these rights and duties to arise, and that is precisely where the contract differs from the license. Like a contract, a license enables you to grant certain rights to your work to someone else, but unlike a contract, the other parties that you are granting these rights to do not have to sign. You attach a license to your work and thus make a "contract with the world", allowing anyone else to do certain things defined by the license to the work you own. Or, in other words (often uttered by the linguist and lawyer Paweł Kamocki to explain the nature of the license): A license is a formalized "promise not to sue" someone for doing something that they would not be able to do legally without the license. It is important to note that a license is just as legally binding as a contract is - once you attach a license to your work, you cannot change your mind and take back the rights you gave away by licensing the work. It is also important to note that only the rights owner can actually license a work - if you do not personally own the rights to it, you cannot license a work! Be aware that a work in the public domain can also not be licensed, but only marked as being in the public domain (see task 2; we will learn more about the public domain mark below). In this definition of "licensing", we implicitly refer to public licenses that the same Paweł Kamocki (together with colleagues) has defined the following way:

"A public license is a license that grants certain rights not to an individual user, but to the general public (every potential user). Public licenses for software has been known since 1980s (when software licenses such as BSDL, MIT or GNU GPL emerged). However, public licenses for other categories of works (including datasets) only appeared in the 21st century, mostly due to the creation of the Creative Commons foundation." (Kamocki, Stranák, Sedlák: The Public License Selector)

(We will learn more about Creative Commons a little later in this session.) Now that we have established what a license is, we can move on to defining how it can become "open". This definition is actually the second part of the Open Definition, so let's look at that in detail.

An open license must irrevocably permit or allow a number of things. This irrevocability is an essential aspect and the reason for it requirement is quite obvious from a practical point of view. Let's think of a licensed object in digital space - e.g. a photo of a mountain landscape which is uploaded to the image database Wikimedia Commons under a certain license. If the license of the photo permits you to use it in any context and you use it to build the visual identity of your long term research project on hiking habits in Austria, but years later the licensor decides to revoke the license, you have no way of obtaining the information about this withdrawal. Still, your use of the same photo might suddenly become illegal. Therefore, licenses (open or not) must always be irrevocable to create legal certainty for the users of the licensed content. If this legal certainty is not given, the whole concept of licensing becomes useless.

The open definition requires licenses to irrevocably grant the following rights to users in order for the license to qualify as being open: Use, redistribution, modification, separation, compilation, non-discrimination, propagation, application to any purpose, and all this must be possible without charges. However, the licensor still has the possibility to keep certain rights to their work under the chosen license and the license can still qualify as open; these acceptable exceptions are, according to the Open definition, attribution, integrity, share-alike, notice, source, the prohibition of technical restrictions and non-aggression.

Task 3[Bearbeiten]

Do you understand all of the conditions and acceptable exceptions named above that make a license open? Go back to the Open Definition and read the short descriptions given there. Some are easy to understand, others are a litte more complex; can you explain the concepts of separation, propagation, technical restriction prohibition and non-aggression?

Now that we have covered all the basics, we can move on to a more fundamental discussion of licensing questions. However, I don't feel like explaining all of these questions over and over again, as I have already explained them in detail numerous times... luckily, one of these explanations is available in writing and - how convenient! - with an open license, which is why I can share it with you here.

Task 4[Bearbeiten]

Please read the paper "Common Creativity international. CC-licensing and other options for TEI-based digital editions in an international context", which you can download and reuse in any way you see fit from the website of the Journal of the Text Encoding Initiative.

Task 5[Bearbeiten]

While you're on the website of the Journal of the Text Encoding Initiative, look for the license of the article you read. Under what conditions can you re-use it?

Now that we've looked at a number of licensing schemes, including Creative Commons, in theory, we can move to practice. In the session before the Easter break (see the session of 30.03., Task 1), we created our Zenodo account, respectively entered Zenodo using our ORCiD accounts. You uploaded one of your works to Zenodo, but did not publish it yet because we needed to discuss a number of licensing issues first. After reading today's session and completing the tasks, you should be ready to publish your work, so let's move to today's final task!

Task 6[Bearbeiten]

Please go back to your upload on Zenodo, choose an appropriate, if possible open Creative Commons license for your work and publish it.
Do you still need some guidance for choosing the right license? Please refer to this Practical Guide to Using Creative Commons Licences or use the CLARIN Public License Selector.

In this session you've learned a lot about licenses and even licensed a work yourself (or maybe not, and you had a good reason not to?). Do you still have questions, remarks, issues? Participate in the Zoom meeting on Mon, 20.04.2020, 5 p.m. - 6 p.m.!

This week's topic of discussion:

What is the best license and why? Did you choose it to license the work you published on Zenodo? Why/why not?


Reading & resources[Bearbeiten]