What are the challenges you face in attributing data you use?


The Creative Commons By Attribution licence (CC BY) is the most open licence and often used as the default licence for open data. With a CC BY licence, you are free to:

  • Share — copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format
  • Adapt — remix, transform, and build upon the material for any purpose, even commercially.

The licensor cannot revoke these freedoms as long as you follow the license terms.

However, in return you must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use.

What are the challenges you face in attributing data you use?


I still come across data sets on open data portals, with no licence identified on them at all. What should I do?


An open licence is what makes data ‘open’. The licence is what provides potential users of the data with important information about the permissions they have to use it. If you are in doubt, contact the data custodian and ask for guidance. Or you can flag it with ODI Queensland and we can check into it for you.


The answer to this question is context sensitive.

If there is no copyright in the data, you can do anything. The question is, how do you know if copyright subsists in the data or not? Thats a question for another day.

If copyright does subsist in the data (and lets say that a lot of data is in this category), and you are an employee of State or Federal Government, you can probably use it internally to your agency, but you should not publish it. More importantly, other people will not be able to reuse it outside of government.

If you are not in State or Federal Government, you are subject to the normal rules of copyright, and consequently, no licence means ‘all rights reserved’. 'All rights reserved ’ means you cannot do anything with the data that involves one of the copyrights (reproduction, communication or publication) unless your reuse falls within one of the Fair Dealing provisions in the Copyright Act, or you are not making a “substantial reproduction” of the data. Substantial in Australia is defined by reference to both a quantitative and qualitative test. You may reproduce only a small part, but it may be the most important part.

So yes, Maree is correct! By far the best option is to ask the data publisher to apply a licence to it, and if they want it to be open data it should be a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Licence, or, if copyright doesn’t subsist, the Creative Commons Public Domain Mark… If they are unsure, they should apply the CC licence.

The attribution issue is a separate matter. If a licence is applied it should also be made clear by the licensor how they wish to be attributed. If the data is in the public domain, strictly there is no need to attribute the data, however courtesy and domain specific norms (academic for example), usually dictate some form of citation / attribution.

There is more information about this on the AusGOAL website (which is being refreshed at the moment).


Is an open licence agreement presented in a language that is understood by all or only contract lawyers?


Creative Commons does attempt to provide a simple explanation of the licence at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/ and then you can get the legalise behind that at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/legalcode

Do you think that addresses your needs?


This explanation https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/ is clear and accessible. Is there any way to get T&Cs to be as ‘perfunctory’ as this?