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License chooser tools

Are there any applications that can help me choose a license?

The task of choosing an appropriate license may seem difficult for an average researcher with a limited access to legal advice. As a response to that problem, attempts have been made to build tools (referred to as License Choosers, License Selectors or even License Wizards) that would guide the users through the jungle of available public licenses and allow him to choose one that is the most suitable for his needs.

The Licentia tool, which has been developed in 2014 by Cardellino for INRIA (French Institute for Research in Computer Science and Automation), is in fact a conglomerate of three tools: a License Search Engine (which allows to identify licenses that meet a set of requirements defined by the user), a License Compatibility Checker (which assesses whether two licenses are compatible, i.e. whether material licensed under those two licenses can be ‘mixed’) and a License Visualiser (an interesting extra feature which produces graph-based visualisations of licenses expressed in ODRL.

The ELRA (European Language Resources Association) License Wizard, released in April 2015, allows users to define a set of features and browse corresponding licenses. For now, the tool only includes CC, META-SHARE and ELRA licenses, so it is particularly useful for language resources.

Finaly, the Public License Selector, developed by Kamocki, Stranak and Sedlak in 2014 as a cooperation between two CLARIN centres (IDS Mannheim and Charles University in Prague), uses an algorithm (a series of yes/ no questions) to assist the user in the licensing process. It allows to choose licenses for both data and software, and features a built-in License Interoperability Tool. Licenses that meet the ‘open’ requirement are clearly marked. Finally, unlike the two other tools, it is made available under Open Software/Open Data conditions.

All of these tools have both advantages and disadvantages; their biggest disadvantage is that they use (to a different degree) a very specific language, which in fact requires basic knowledge of Intellectual Property Law from the user. They also necessarily involve a certain degree of over- or undergeneralization, especially when it comes to assessing license interoperability. Nevertheless, they remain very useful for the research community and may indeed help facilitate re-use and sharing of tools and data.