New research: Understanding the drivers of license proliferation


Dear all,

We are pleased to announce a new research project to understand the drivers of license proliferation within government. Why do governments create custom licenses? Who within government decides that standard licenses are not the best solution to make data and content legally open? How do governments organise the licensing process and how can license recommendations applied across government agencies? You can find our announcement in this blogpost.

We conduct this research out of two motivations -

  1. To investigate why governments decide to use certain licenses and how they interact with the work of license stewards like the Open Data Commons/Open Definition and Creative Commons,
  2. To understand how the Open Knowledge network, the Open Definition board, and possibly other licensing stewards could/should respond to the issue of license proliferation (for example, is a more active promotion of the license approval process useful?).

The latter questions came up in some discussions here and here, and we hope to be able and provide some answers once we finish this research.

For now we would like to invite you and leave your comments in this thread.

If you know a relevant government contact in one of our sample countries, please do let us know here or send an email to (Our sample countries are: Taiwan, Australia, Great Britain, France, Finland, Canada, Norway, New Zealand, Brazil, Denmark, Colombia, Mexico, Japan, Argentina, Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, Greece, Nepal, Singapore).

I’m also cc’ing in @audreyt, @tobybellwood, @nickmhalliday, @RouxRC, @samgta, @arielkogan, @Enrique_Zapata, @Juan_Felipe_Devia_Ro, @nilleren, @cbratsas, @Lopez, @nikeshbalami, @alyssaluo


The Australian, State and Local governments have lined up behind CC BY as a default. In some instances CC BY SA is used.

Check out their portals


Hi @Stephen,

Yes, I did some reading about Australia. Am I right that the Australian Governments Open Access and Licensing Framework (AusGOAL) played a central role in promoting standard licenses on different gov levels? It would be interesting to see how license recommendations can translate into standard license implementation - maybe there are no explanations other than pragmatism, but it would still be interesting to hear more.

I’m trying to get my head around what are the arguments for a government to promote standard licenses. I found for example that New Zealand’s NZGOAL published an interesting text where they compare different possible license options for New Zealand’s public sector info. This is the best documented example I found so far and it would be enormously helpful to read more of these for other countries.


I think @badapple can help you here with the history. Baden?


With the Australian example (specifically), it kind of seems weird for them to choose otherwise open licences (CC-*) for non-open content.

The example which showed up (for me) the other day is AURIN:

Data sets which look like they’d be useful to a lot of places. Licenced under CC licences… but only available to a small group of people:

Access to this dataset is via the AURIN Portal. Anyone with an email address, or an Australian Access Federation (AAF) account, can log into the AURIN Portal and retrieve data based on access privileges. If you have a affiliation and would like access, please register here for an account.

Which is a shame, as I was looking to mirror some of the content as example data for our new data collaboration platform ( eg not critical usage for us, as there are other example data sources. :wink:

If their intent was to restrict access to the data, why are they releasing it with such a licence?


Even if Italy isn’t a sample country, there is an interesting point to discuss: the IODL (Italian OpenData License) is widespread along side public data sets and websites. It was born in 2010 (have a look on wikipedia related page) under v1.0 release. It seems a mashup between ODbL and CCBySA. Should it become a sample country, just shot me a message and I’ll try to help.


Hi @nelsonmau ,

Thanks for getting in touch. The IODL sounds very interesting as a case (even though not part of the sample) and I’d love to hear more about the background why Italian government developed it - i.e. what were the arguments to develop this license instead of using Creative Commons or Open Data Commons licenses, how effectively is the license implemented across government bodies (or not), are there any plans to apply for approval by the Open Definition?.

Do feel free to share your knowledge in this thread (which might be interesting for others) or to send your response to Also feel free to forward contacts to gov officials who might know more about this. Thanks so much!


Hi @dannylammerhirt,

We have a very old law in Italy regardig copyright. Please do have a look at wikipedia’s page. The effort to include data licensing into this frame brought Italian Institutions to define a new one, with differences from CC and others.
It seem the main point is in regarding database, probably similar to this assessment by OSM

Moreover, when the ultimate IODL was born (2012), one of the more Italian experts wrote this blogpost

Hope this help


I don’t remember why discussion did not seem to proceed in either case, but IODL was brought to the mailing list that preceded this forum twice:

I don’t recall whether I had any real justification or it was just wishful thinking, but I viewed in part as “a sort of pro-compatibility agitation, of which I consider the Italian Open Data License 1.0 (explicitly compatible with both CC BY-SA and ODbL, which are mostly incompatible with each other) an example.”