What is the difference between heaven and hell? There are quite a few allegories out there, including the Lithuanian “Allegory of the long spoons”, which claim that the only difference is within the attitude of the people involved. In hell, there are people who are selfish and very limited in their way of thinking; and in heaven, there are cooperative people, who care about others and can therefore create a win-win situation for all – which takes me directly to the licensing dilemma we are currently facing in the Semantic Web community.
The whole Semantic Web paradigm is in fact built on collaboration. People publish data, which others re-use and mash up and further enrich and through that process, all create – in the course of time – a data ecosystem that “feeds” the whole community. The main trigger to illustrate that this effort is ramping up is the so called “LOD cloud diagram”, showing the published data sets and the relations between them. Did you know that 40% of these datasets do not have any license at all and therefore by definition can’t be used in any professional environment? The reason for this crazy situation is quite simple: the publishers do not care!
I think it is time to raise awareness around this issue and to work actively on a solution. There are quite a few discussions going on, like the paper by Jain et al. or the recent blog post by Sören Auer. Wolters Kluwer will co-organize with Semantic Web Company a workshop on that topic at the I-Semantics conference in Graz in September. Concerning the solution, we will publish as a deliverable in LOD2 project a “best practice guide” also in September around what licenses to use in which situation and we will propose a reasonable way how to easily include licensing information in the datasets themselves – a functionality that is currently lacking.
If there is interest, I will elaborate in one of my next posts on Wolters Kluwer Germany’s efforts to make optimal use of licensing information when integrating external data sources in our data workflow.
So I definitely prefer the “heaven” setting and we are willing to contribute our share to make it happen.