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.

As part of this effort, we have grouped the resources that we have examined into one of several loose categories. Using our current descriptive lens, our permissive licenses should be able to inter-operate for our range of (re)use. The copyleft and private pool licenses would also theoretically allow inter-operation for our use, assuming that all participants used the same, or compatible, license or terms (which may be a practical non-starter for some resources). restrictive and copyright licenses would all have different issues that prevent (re)use. More detailed descriptions are supplied below.

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.


A "permissive" license is one that allows reuse in modifying, remixing, and sharing with non-onerous restriction. This category would include Creative Commons CC0 and BY licenses, Free Software licenses like the MIT license, and data in the public domain (please note the public domain discussion in criteria A.2.1).


While the license is very open to use in some cases and for some users, reuse requires either a matching license or a license with compatible terms, which may be difficult to determine in some circumstances without counsel. This category includes: GPLs and Creative Commons BY-SA licenses, and ODbL 1.0.

private pool

A "private pool" license is one where the resource requires that users of the data to either add their own data to the pool or make derivative data available only to those that have also joined the pool. Conceptually, this is similar to some copyleft licenses, but without the public "open" component.


A "restrictive" license is one that may offer more freedoms than the standard US copyright, but may be of little use to allowing reasonably flexible (re)use. This category includes Creative Commons ND and NC licenses, as well as many custom licenses.


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 were so exotic that no analysis could reasonably be done.

All copyrightable materials on this site are © 2019 the (Re)usable Data Project under the CC-BY 4.0 license.
The (Re)usable Data Project is funded by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) OT3 TR002019 as part of the Biomedical Data Translator project and U24TR002306 as part of the CTSA Program National Center for Data to Health (CD2H).
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.