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OpenART and Open Licensing

OpenART Licensing

As part of OpenART we need to decide how to license the data that we will expose about the ‘London Art World’ dataset. We said in the OpenART bid that we would make available the data under the terms of the Open Data Commons PDDL but this needed to be further explored with the project stakeholders and the creator and contributors of the dataset.

Within the Linked Data community there is a general desire to be as open as possible. The LOCAH project have used the most open license possible, the Creative Commons public domain CC0 license, and have successfully gained the support of their data owners from the Archives Hub and Copac.

JISC’s recent Open Bibliographic Data Guide encourages the use of a free and open licence: “Universities should proceed on the presumption that their bibliographic data will be made freely available for use and reuse.” (JISC Open Bibliographic Data Guide and “In the vast majority of circumstances, institutions should use a Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY) to encourage reuse of copyrightable material. For collections of factual data, the Open Data Commons Public Domain Dedication and License (ODC-PDDL) should be used.” (JISC Open Bibliographic Data Guide Another useful resource for those considering licenses is the DCC How-To Guide, How to License Research Data (
– this identifies some of the easy-to-miss pitfalls of choosing more restrictive licenses.

For OpenART, the Open Data Commons Licenses seem to be the most appropriate license for our dataset. I offered the project team two alternative approaches.

The first was the Open Data Commons Open Database License (ODbL). This is the most restrictive of the Open Data Commons Licenses, but does still allow for wide re-use and sharing. This applies to the ‘dataset’, not its contents. This would allow us to then license the content separately, as may be needed in future for the content contributed by others. For the core data (contributed by Richard Stephens) and the initial release of data, the complementary Database Contents License (DbCL) would be appropriate, which simply places the same condition on the content as on the database as a whole.

What ODbL allows for is summarized here:

In short, this license allows others to re-use freely, so long as they attribute the source, share under the same license and provide unrestricted open access to derived works. It does not explicitly prevent commercial use, but insists on a public and open version always being made available of any derived works.

The alternative is to use PDDL, the Public Domain license, in conjunction with the ‘Community Norms’. This would place the dataset and its contents in the public domain, with users encouraged to abide by the ‘norms’ of sharing the data in the same way (this has no legal basis, it is a statement of good faith).  This approach is asking our contributors to give up their rights in the data.

What PDDL allows for is summarized here:

The ‘Norms’ are summarised here:

The OpenART dataset is the result of several years work and has involved considerable intellectual efforts. Asking it’s contributors to cede copyright and attribution is quite a leap. ODbL, therefore, would seem the best compromise, offering wide-reuse whilst retaining a link back to those who created the data. The decision to use OCbL is not yet final, but remains the strongest contender. I will update the post when a final agreement is reached.


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OpenART Project Plan

Aims, Objectives and Final Output(s) of the project

The primary aim of OpenART is to expose open metadata and Linked Data about resources and collections from an exemplary research project funded by the AHRC, and to provide for and support services that will consume and visualise the data. The secondary aim is to produce analysis of the process and lessons learnt from OpenART to enable others to benefit from the project and re-use its approaches.

Key deliverables will be:

  • Data model;
  • Implementation, prototypes, with documentation;
  • Open metadata;
  • Lessons learned and technical approaches report.

Success measures for OpenART include:

  • The successful encoding and exposure of metadata in open formats;
  • The consumption of that metadata by services including aggregators and search engines;
  • The successful discovery of resources based on the metadata made available; and
  • A re-usable process for using Fedora Commons and related technologies to ingest, store and expose open metadata.

Wider Benefits to Sector & Achievements for Host Institution

There are a range of benefits, best highlighted across different groups of stakeholders:

For the Higher Education Community, OpenART will offer ways of reducing duplicated effort, increasing collaboration, increasing access and bringing information about collections together with the research which draws on primary sources. For History of Art and the Humanities, where independent study is the norm and technical skill and support is often low, and where funding for research may be reduced drastically in coming years, OpenART will help institutions and individuals get maximum value from funded projects through sharing and re-using data.

For The University of York Library & Archives, OpenART offers the chance to build on prototyping work from its YODL-ING project and to work with experts in the Fedora and linked data communities towards building a sustainable semantic framework, and local skill. The processes identified in OpenART will be applied across all of our Digital Library collections. OpenART is also an opportunity to further embed the Digital Library into York’s information architecture and to diversify the offerings of the Digital Library from a simple storage and access interface, to a truly open, re-usable data store.

For The University of York Department of History of Art, OpenART enhances work already underway to support this internationally recognised Department by offering innovative and unprecedented technical support for its research, its students and its capacity for future funding. Collaboration which is increasingly important, becomes easier too.

For Tate, OpenART will offer open metadata about its collection (the national Collection of British art from the 1500s), new perspectives on aspects of the collection and connections to research and material elsewhere. It will also provide Tate with a model for opening up collection metadata using linked data principles, which will help fulfil Tate’s Digital Strategy.

For Cultural Institutions, OpenART demonstrates how libraries, archives and museums can draw from or partner in technical innovation to move towards a shared vision of opening collections online for increased understanding and re-use. It also provides a model for the way in which information about the collections held by these institutions can be shared with new audiences.

For JISC, OpenART offers a project which meets the vision of its RDTF. OpenART will show how open data techniques can be used to support real-world researchers. It will increase possibilities for collaboration and offer a model for sharing the outputs of individual research. OpenART will also provide a blueprint architecture for offering diverse sets of open metadata.

For Fedora Commons, OpenART will provide an exemplar of how Fedora’s Content Model Architecture and RDF capabilities can be applied to provide a consistent underlying model for data and metadata, and how services can be flexibly implemented on resources to expose metadata in a variety of formats, particularly exposing open linked data.

Risk Analysis and Success Plan

Risk Prob.
(P x S)
Action to Prevent / Manage risk
Staff are unable to dedicate sufficient time to the project 2 3 6 Recruitment of new staff and funded time for project manager; funded time for partners.
Recruitment is delayed 1 4 4 Recruitment was al ittle delayed, but candidate can commit some time before start date.
Technologies/software not developed fully enough for project needs 3 2 6 Use of existing proven technical infrastructure. Project partner expertise and prototyping to find appropriate technologies.
Project partners do not deliver on time 2 3 6 Clear agreements and timescales from the outset.
Staff leave the project 2 3 6 A larger team is in place for support.
Timescales slip due to unforeseen challenges 3 2 6 Agile approach to development; clear communication with JISC.
Interdependencies/conflicts between OpenART and the project providing the data. 3 3 9 Early input of requirements and guidance to the project providing the data.

OpenART will be implemented within the York Digital Library, a permanent service of the Information Directorate. The existing Digital Library team will work closely with OpenART to ensure outputs are embeddable within the existing technical architecture. OpenART builds on well-established and developing technologies (e.g. Fedora Commons, Mulgara) and has a Fedora Commons committer as project partner to ensure developments at York are both in-line with Fedora and also can be fed back to that community for future sustainability: a model which has been very successful for YODL-ING.

If the project is successful to the point of genearating high levels of server traffic, or high demand on staff to talk about the project, we can 1) call on the wider team to assist, 2) call on our project partners for additional support, and 3) call on the Fedora and linked data communities, and related JISC support services for help.


OpenART will be managed according to JISC guidelines for the handling and management of intellectual property. Project deliverables will be made available free of charge to the UK HE and FE community and will be available for wide dissemination in partnership with the JISC. The data produced by this project will be released under an Open Data Commons PDDL licence, or similar license.

Project Team Relationships and End User Engagement

The project involves representatives from its key stakeholder groups, as follows:

  • Researchers, in particular humanities researchers
  • Academic Departments
  • Cultural Institutions
  • Technologists, aggregators and data consumers
  • Information managers

The project partners from the University of York, Tate and Acuity Unlimited offer a unique mix of skills.

York Library & Archives bring technical skill, a sustainable infrastructure and information management expertise:

  • Stephen Town, Director of Information will commit 3 days to the project.
  • Julie Allinson, Digital Library Manager will commit half a day per week for the project length.
  • Paul Young, Digital Library Developer will be working 3 days per week for the project length.

York History of Art provide key subject expertise and the researcher perspective:

  • Dr Richard Stephens is an art historian employed by the University of York, based in the research department at Tate Britain. He will commit 5 days to the project and is the creator of the rich dataset on which the project is based.

Tate provide primary data, collection expertise and subject knowledge. Holders of the national Collection of British art from 1500, international modern and contemporary art from 1900, and with a vision dedicated to increasing the public’s knowledge, enjoyment and understanding of its art and archives, internationally, Tate are central to this project.

  • John Stack, Head of Tate Online will commit 3 days to the project.
  • Pip Laurenson, Head of Collection Care Research at Tate will commit 3 days to the project.

Acuity Unlimited bring key technical point expertise in ontologies, identifiers and Fedora Commons:

  • Steve Bayliss and Martin Dow from Acuity Unlimited bring experience in contemporary object-oriented and service-oriented development, applied XML and web services, and repository and semantic technology solutions.

OpenART has been designed to work closely with its users, both the creators and consumers of the metadata, and has a strong relationship with the Court, Country, City Project team, which includes the Head of Department for History of Art, along with other key academics in the humanities through the Digital Library. This is shown by the project partners. In addition, we have identified key aggregators and services whose standards and APIs will be used to inform development. These include Edina (VSM portal), CultureGrid and Europeana. Existing projects, LOCAH, OpenBiblio and LUCERO will be consulted to ensure joined up development.

Projected Timeline, Workplan & Overall Project Methodology

A workpackages document describes the project timeline and workplan.

Julie Allinson, Digital Library Manager at York, will manage OpenART. OpenART will be managed according to the University Library & Archives lightweight project management methodology and will adhere to JISC Project management guidelines, with which members of the team are familiar. A lightweight agreements with the Tate, and a contract with Acuity will be established.


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