Update the Panton Principles please

There is a big contradiction between the text of The Panton Principles and the List of the Recommended Conformant Licenses. It appears that it is intentional, I’ll explain in a moment why I write this.

This contradiction is very bad for the Open Science movement. That is why, please, update your principles.

Here is the evidence.

1. The second of the Panton Principles is:

“2. Many widely recognized licenses are not intended for, and are not appropriate for, data or collections of data. A variety of waivers and licenses that are designed for and appropriate for the treatment of data are described [here](http://opendefinition.org/licenses#Data). Creative Commons licenses (apart from CCZero), GFDL, GPL, BSD, etc are NOT appropriate for data and their use is STRONGLY discouraged.

*Use a recognized waiver or license that is appropriate for data.* ”

As you can see, the authors clearly state that “Creative Commons licenses (apart from CCZero) … are NOT appropriate for data and their use is STRONGLY discouraged.”

2. However, if you look at the List of Recommended Licenses, surprise:

Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 4.0 (CC-BY-SA-4.0) is recommended.

3. The CC-BY-SA-4.0 is important because it has a very clear anti-DRM part:

“You may not offer or impose any additional or different terms or conditions on, or apply any Effective Technological Measures to, the Licensed Material if doing so restricts exercise of the Licensed Rights by any recipient of the Licensed Material.” [source CC 4.0 licence: in Section 2/Scope/a. Licence grant/5]

4. The anti-DRM is not a “must” in the Open Definition 2.1. Indeed, the Open Definition clearly uses “must” in some places and “may” in another places.  See

“2.2.6 Technical Restriction Prohibition

The license may require that distributions of the work remain free of any technical measures that would restrict the exercise of otherwise allowed rights. ”

5. I asked why is this here. Rufus Pollock, one of the authors of The Panton Principles and of the Open Definition 2.1, answered:

“Hi that’s quite simple: that’s about allowing licenses which have anti-DRM clauses. This is one of the few restrictions that an open license can have.”

My reply:

“Thanks Rufus Pollock but to me this looks like allowing as well any DRM clauses. Why don’t include a statement as clear as the one I quoted?”


“Marius: erm how do you read it that way? “The license may prohibit distribution of the work in a manner where technical measures impose restrictions on the exercise of otherwise allowed rights.”

That’s pretty clear: it allows licenses to prohibit DRM stuff – not to allow it. “[Open] Licenses may prohibit …. technical measures …”


“Marius: so are you saying your unhappy because the Definition fails to require that all “open licenses” explicitly prohibit DRM? That would seem a bit of a strong thing to require – its one thing to allow people to do that but its another to require it in every license. Remember the Definition is not a license but a set of principles (a standard if you like) that open works (data, content etc) and open licenses for data and content must conform to.”

I gather from this exchange that indeed the anti-DRM is not one of the main concerns!

6. So, until now, what do we have? Principles and definitions which aim to regulate what Open Data means which avoid to take an anti-DRM stance. In the same time they strongly discourage the use of an anti-DRM license like CC-BY-4.0. However, on a page which is not as visible they recommend, among others, CC-BY-4.0.

There is one thing to say: “you may use anti-DRM licenses for Open Data”. It means almost nothing, it’s up to you, not important for them. They write that all CC licenses excepting CCZero are bad! Notice that CC0 does not have anything anti-DRM.

Conclusion. This ambiguity has to be settled by the authors. Or not, is up to them. For me this is a strong signal that we witness one more attempt to tweak a well intended  movement for cloudy purposes.

The Open Definition 2.1. ends with:

Richard Stallman was the first to push the ideals of software freedom which we continue.

Don’t say, really? Maybe is the moment for a less ambiguous Free Science.


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