Creative Commons license for archaeological data : Heathrow T5

Stefano Costa
Mon Sep 24 12:05:31 CEST 2007

Dear all,
last month the Past Thinking blog [1] reported about the Heathrow T5
archaeology data released under Creative Commons license [2].

The raw excavation data has been released in a variety of useful formats
(including XML and GML, CSV, SHP), under a Creative Commons
Attribution-NonCommercial license [3]. In short words, this means that
you can use them for whatever you like, as long as you don’t make money
from their use.

As remarked by Tom on his blog, this "is quite a milestone", because the
T5 excavation is a really important and large one.

So, this is perhaps the first time (or one of the first times) that
archaeological data are released under such an "Open Content" license.
More data will be eventually published under these terms, based on this

One question that comes to me is whether the Creative Commons can apply
to archaeological data, because of their unique nature where objective
facts are tightly mixed with subjective interpretations and choices
(btw, this is a big and controversial topic of archaeological theory and
I'm not going into the details). Choosing a Creative Commons license
suggests that the "subjective" part is somehow more important, and thus
the archaeologist retains the copyright on her/his work (the CC stuff
only applies in case of copyright).

The counterpart is the famous "Facts are free" motto, that should apply
in any case where data are "objective" and thus there is lack of
creativity by the author/archaeologist. In such a case, if one chooses
to publish data from an excavation|survey|experiment, data should
ideally be in the public domain (at least in countries where PD exists).

I know this sounds all like useless legalese stuff, but I do think
discussing about it is very important, given the fact that more and more
archaeological data will go public through the WWW in the next few
years, and this is already happening [4][5]. As always, practice is one
step beyond theory. This is why we started talking about Creative and
Science Commons at the Genoa Workshop last May.

I'd like to hear some discussion from the list about this topic, perhaps
revamping the "Data sharing" issue seen here months ago.



Stefano Costa Archeologia e Software Libero
Io uso Debian GNU/Linux!

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