The non-open Italian Open Data License

Looks very interesting, as far as I can tell given that I don’t read Italian (though Google Translate seems to do a reasonable job).

Except the Italian Open Data License clearly not an open data license.

That’s because it’s a non-commercial license.

The non-commercial restriction

The relevant Italian “Open” Data License section is at 4:

Section 4. Restrizioni Non puoi esercitare alcuno dei diritti a Te concessi in modo tale che sia prevalentemente inteso al perseguimento di un vantaggio commerciale o di un compenso monetario privato.


Section 4. Restrictions May not exercise any rights granted to You in such a way that is primarily intended for the pursuit of commercial advantage or private monetary compensation.

Defining open in terms of legal rights is critical stuff because when people talk about “open”, they mean it as a shorthand for bundle of user permissions. The Open Knowledge Definition does the hard work of nailing down the set of critical user rights behind openness.

Non-commercial restrictions break compatibility with lots of other licenses and restrict an entire field of use. Open source and Free Software licenses don’t have non-commercial restrictions in them, and that’s critical to their success. That’s why Section 8 of the OKD prohibits non-commercial licenses – it severely limits the use and re-use of knowledge.

Is it even a data license?

Writing public licenses is hard work, and the authors are to complimented for attempting it and for caring about open data.

I’m wondering what the Italian “Open” Data License adds to the Italian community? Creative Commons already has a set of Italian ports to the CC licenses and this document doesn’t seem to add much of anything to that approach, and in fact could cause more harm than good as…

I’m not sure it’s a data license either.

For us at Open Data Commons, the two main technical reasons for creating a specific set of open data licenses are:

  • Legal – to cover the full range of legal rights, including database rights, which alternatively Creative Commons licenses are either silent or purport to waive them. Eliminating the database right isn’t an option for every user. What’s not clear to me about this license is how or even if a data license can be cross-compatible when one license waives a right (CC and the database right) and the other licenses it (presumably the IODF, but see comment below on licensing).
  • Practical – as a content license, the CC licenses aren’t drafted with databases in mind, so as a user (either as a licensor or licensee) there’s a mismatch with license terms such as attribution and practical ways to accomplish this in databases.

Does the Italian “Open” Data License cover these two areas? Not as far as I can tell:

  • There is no explicit mention of database rights (or copyright for that matter). Seems pretty critical when licensing something that you state what rights are being licensed.
  • On the practical end, this document doesn’t do anything to address some of the open licensing issues specific to databases, such as where do you draw the line between the data and the database and how to handle attributions when only using some of the data from the database. (Both of these are addressed in all the Open Data Commons licenses).

In my opinion, public domain approaches for open government data are almost always preferable.

However, if the Creative Commons or Open Data Commons licenses weren’t enough for the Italian government, or for any other government out there looking at open data licensing, then I think the best place to start would be the UK’s Open Government Licence, especially for Europe.



It most definitely is not compatible with any of the Open Data Commons licenses as it tries to claim.

First, there is no “Open Data Commons license”, we have three legal tools and this section should be specific. Second, the non-commercial restriction totally breaks any compatibility with the ODbL and the ODC Attribution license.

Note that the same holds for Creative Commons — there is no “Creative Commons license”. They have 6 main tools and a non-commercial license could only be potentially compatible with the ones containing the NC restriction. Just declaring compatibility doesn’t make it so (on either account for CC or ODC).


Final question: I can’t quite tell — is this a draft for public comment or a final version being actually used? Let’s hope it’s still in alpha testing…

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One Comment

  1. Posted 9 November 2010 at 01:30 | Permalink

    I’ve blogged about similar issues with the non-open nature of the claimed open data licenses of a number of prominent Canadian cities: It’s not Open Data, so stop calling it that…. In this case, the licenses allow the cities to arbitrarily and retroactively refuse access/use of the data of someone. As I point out here (What is Open Gov Data? The Sunlight Foundation: Ten Principles for Opening Up Government Information), these restrictions break the non-discrimination, licensing and permanence (they don’t version their data or their licenses, & don’t tie these together) of the Sunlight Foundation’s 10 Principles. Yet these cities are claiming that they are using Open licenses.

    Yes, we need to hold these institutions feet-to-the-fire with respect to their claims to openness and what their licenses actually define.

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