A few weeks back we blogged about Russ Nelson’s proposals for the Open Source Initiative (OSI) to adopt the Open Knowledge Definition, our standard for openness in relation to content and data.

Russ has written back to us with some notes and questions from a session on this at OSCON:

Okay, so, as promised, here is my report on the “Open Data Definition” BOF held on Wednesday, July 21, at 7PM. There were about ten people present, which is a reasonable attendance, particularly when set against the Google Android Hands-on session at which they gave out free Nexus One phones.

Didn’t seem wise to me to start from scratch, especially given the good work done by the Open Knowledge Foundation on their Open Knowledge Definition: http://www.opendefinition.org/okd/. So we read through it section by section, by way of review. Here are the questions we arrived at (thanks to Skud aka Kirrily Robert for taking notes):

  1. What happens with data that’s not copyrightable?
    1a. What about data that consists of facts about the world and thus even a collection of it cannot be copyrighted, but the exact file format can be copyrighted? Many sub-federal-level governments in the US have to publish facts on demand but claim a copyright on the formatting.
  2. What about data that’s not accessible as a whole, but only through an API?
  3. We’re thinking that OKD #9 should read “execution of an additional agreement” rather than “additional license”.
  4. Does OKD #4 apply to works distributed in a particular file format? Is a movie not open data if it’s encoded in a patent-encumbered codec? Does it become open data if it’s re-encoded?
  5. What constitutes onerous attribution in OKD #5? If you get open data from somebody, and they have an attribution page, is it sufficient for you to comply with the attribution requirement if you point to the attribution page?

This serves as an invitation to discuss these issues on the new list open-data@opensource.org . Send subscription requests to open-data-subscribe@opensource.org . Unsubscribe by sending a request to open-data-unsubscribe@opensource.org .

If these issues are successfully resolved, then this committee will recommend to the OSI board that the OKD should be adopted as OSI approved. If they can’t be resolved by, say, the end of 2010, then we will give up on trying. Either way, the intent is to lay down the list by the end of this year unless the participants desire otherwise.

So if you’d like to join the conversation, please join the list! We’ve also created an Etherpad to gather responses to some of these issues:

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Dr. Jonathan Gray is Lecturer in Critical Infrastructure Studies at the Department of Digital Humanities, King’s College London, where he is currently writing a book on data worlds. He is also Cofounder of the Public Data Lab; and Research Associate at the Digital Methods Initiative (University of Amsterdam) and the médialab (Sciences Po, Paris). More about his work can be found at jonathangray.org and he tweets at @jwyg.

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