ON JANUARY 20, 2017

Open Data Licenses

If you’re familiar with open data, you’re probably familiar with images like this one hanging out somewhere at the bottom of the page

Clearly this means carbon copy mens room anti-capitalism equals North Dakota.

If you’ve ever found yourself wondering why “open data” (something that is, by definition, free to use) includes licensing, you’re not alone. That said, there’s some very good reasons for licensing, and while it’s easy to wish that all open data was, well, open, it’s important to become familiar with them so you know what you’re dealing with.

Creative Commons public domain — CC0


  • Information can be used freely, even for commercial purposes

Creative Commons Attribution — CC4.0


License requires that credit be the website where you obtained the data from, and it may be used commercially

  • Please acknowledge
  • Any person who uses or downloads any Dataset or Data in a Dataset in any software application, derivative work, or other application or presentation shall include the following disclaimer on the site where the software application, derivative work, or other application or presentation can be accessed:
  • Requires attribution

Creative Commons Non-Commercial — CC-NC4.0


Attribution (credit) must be given to the appropriate source. License cannot be used for commercial purposes.

  • Data sets shall NOT be redistributed
  • Non-commercial, non-profit making use

Creative Commons Share Alike — CC-SA


  • The appropriate credit must be given to the original source and any changes made be stated.
  • If you do use the data and change it in anyway, or use any derivative of the data, you must do so under the conditions of the previous license.
  • Open data is data that can be freely used, reused and redistributed by anyone — subject only, at most, to the requirement to attribute and sharealike.

Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial ShareAlike 4.0 — CC-NC-SA


  • Attribution and credit must be given to the appropriate entities
  • The data cannot be used for commercial purposes
  • If the data is used, it must be passed forward with the same license as the original source.

Open Government License — OGL

  • Anyone can copy, publish, distribute, transmit and adapt the licensed work.
  • This data can be used for commercial purposes

ThinkData Works carefully acknowledges and includes licensing information with all of the data they collect on their open data management platform, Namara.

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