Science Commons provide a list of considerations for researchers looking to license their ontology

Back in March, I wrote a blog post about my experiences trying to find out a) if ontologies should be licensed, b) if ontologies could be licensed, and c) what sort of license would be appropriate. After all, it isn’t clear what sort of thing an ontology is: is it software, or is it a document, or is it something else completely? In this post, I included a response I had received from the nice folks over at Science Commons, giving their perspective on the situation.

Today, I came across a Science Commons blog post by Kaitlin Thaney announcing OWL 2. In it, she also mentions that Science Commons now have a Reading Room article on Ontology Copyright Licensing Considerations which is well worth a read. It updates the information contained in my March post, and provides some useful thoughts on how we should go about licensing ontologies. The section below was the part that particularly caught my eye:

For sharing ontologies in a community or publicly, it would be prudent to think about copyright and licensing. For example, the ontology creator could say that “to the extent I may have copyright in my ontology, I license it in the following way.” In that way, she can reassure the community that even in the event copyright is later found to exist, they may rely upon her offer of a license. This provides an important “safety net” for the community of users, given the uncertainty about whether a given ontology may be copyrightable.

The above section seems to be the biggest new point compared with their earlier statement. While they primarily recommend CC0, they do acknowledge that many researchers may wish to choose an attribution-based licences such as the CC Attribution license.

If you create ontologies, then you should read this article: it’s short, easy to understand, and gives you the information you need to make your own decisions.