License types for the (Re)usable Data Project

The exact boundries of various license types is still in flux within the (Re)usable Data Project, and will no doubt be revisited as we better understand the space our communities work in. At its core, we're wanting to examine pools of (re)use--where things can be mixed and where they must stay separate.

The basic idea is that our permissive licenses can all inter-operate for our range of (re)use. The copyleft (and closedpool) licenses would also theoretically all inter-operation for our use, assuming that everybody all used the same one or had compatible ones, which is a practical non-starter in many domains. restrictive, copyright, and closed pool licenses would all have issues that prevent (re)use.

Naturally, the license landscape is much more complicated than can be sketched with these basic terms. Eventually, we would would like to use more granular terms, essentially a license compatibility ontology, so that a new resources could intelligently knit together what they need with their license, so on. This is just a humble first pass to get the most basic understanding.

public domain

While a public domain declaration may work well in some jurisdictions, has very good intent, and could be considered "standard", some ambiguities and international portability makes it problematic for our purposes. Please see the Creative Commons discussion for more detail. This does not include CC0.


A "permissive" license is one that allows reuse in modifying, remixing, and sharing with non-onerous restriction. This category would include CC0 and CC BY 4.0.


While the license is very open to use, it's reuse requires a matching open license for reuse. This category includes GPLs and CC BY SA 4.0.

closed pool

Similar to copyleft, but without the public "open" component; think of a private data pool that members can enjoy if they join.


A "restrictive" license is one that may offer more freedoms than the standard US copyright, but is of little use to allowing reasonably flexible (re)use. This category includes CC BY ND 4.0.


This is the standard restrictive default copyright in the US. Within our documentation, we may also refer to this as "ARR" or "all rights reserved".


For this category, the license could not be found for analysis or the terms of the license are so exotic that no analysis can reasonably be done.

All copyrightable materials on this site are © 2017 the (Re)usable Data Project under the CC-BY 4.0 license. is funded by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) OT3 TR002019 as part of the Biomedical Data Translator project.
The (Re)usable Data Project would like to acknowledge the assistance of many more people than can be listed here. Please visit the about page for the full list.