Entry for companies / nir - 'open status'



This is a discussion about the submission for companies / nir, in reference to the licensing status of the Company House Free Company Data Product.

Northern Ireland has received a ‘No’ on the ‘Is the data openly licensed/in public domain?’ question under review, as the reviewer comments:

‘The link to the license includes a paragraph saying “CH does not make public information, including the Free Data Product, available under the Open Government Licence (OGL).”’

Despite this, I think that the dataset does have open status. This is the evidence (a Freedom of Information response) that I believe the reviewer was referring to: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/free_company_data_third_party_in#incoming-557695. That states that there is no open licence for the data. However, the evidence also states:

CH places no restriction on how the information is used, but advises all customers to take their own legal advice regarding possible breach of third party copyright.

The question guidance states:

‘Answer also “Yes” if there is no open licence, but a statement that the dataset is in “public domain”. To count as public domain the dataset must not be protected by copyright, patents or similar restrictions.’ (This is a distinction that was wrought out with Open Definition 2.1).

Therefore, in line with the question guidance in that it can be considered public domain and I submit that the dataset can therefore be considered to be open in this regard.

For an excellent (and for me, illuminating) discussion of this, Owen Boswarva discusses these issues, and this dataset in particular.

I think it is also worth pointing out that exactly the same dataset was submitted for Great Britain’s entry (the Free Company Data Product covers both Northern Ireland and Great Britain) and did receive a ‘Yes’ for the question. At the very least there should be consistency with regards scores for the same dataset.


Hi @BobHarper1,

Well-spotted. The two submissions should be consistent, since it is the same database.

And thank you so much for the enlightening article by @owenboswarva. As a side note, we faced quite some difficulties when assessing public domain status. Part of the reason is that most terms, copyright waivers or similar texts are juristically hard to interpret for us. There is a lot of ambiguity and in many cases we gave doubt preference and answered that data is not openly licensed.

I changed the open licensing/public domain status to yes.

Thanks again for spotting this.


Thanks @dannylammerhirt for the swift correction. I agree it can be a difficult one to interpret for any user, and this experience shows that the data holder would create a lot more confidence if they were to put a licence in place, that being within their competence.