Subject: Looking for some input
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <stephen@xemacs.org>
Date: Thu, 21 Dec 2006 12:08:59 +0900

Chip Mefford writes:

 > I know the other folks, and they are all good in their field, and they
 > already know that I am one of those near-zealot free software wierdos
 > and don't hold it against me. Like many, they don't get it, and don't
 > really care. And that's fine.

Not really.  I think you are in a wonderful position, but you are
going to need to get those others to sign off, and a truly free
license is a big deal.  Now, there's a good chance that what they
don't get for software they will get when it's information they care
about.  But you need to be careful that when they get it, they like
it.

If you think it would be helpful to get a broader take on perception
the issues, I have a bunch of colleagues doing GIS and environment
risk assessment (as academic researchers, I don't know how active they
are in consulting).  I could talk to them, but they of course will be
thinking in terms of Japanese culture and legal environment.
(N.B. I'll probably talk to them anyway, I'm interested myself, but
I'll put higher priority on it if you want.)

There are two efforts I know of in economics where such databases are
being published.  One is IPUMS, which is a body of historical US
census data, that they are currently linking to other countries' data.
The other is Penn World Tables, which is basically macroeconomic
growth data.  They're not the same level of detail as the data you'll
be working with, but I could look at their licensing policy and get in
touch with their management if you like.  On the other hand, most
massive databases (eg, transaction data for whole stock exchanges) are
very proprietary (but of course they are generated by the exchanges,
which are for-profit entities in most cases).  And there are some
macro databases such as the Global Trade Analysis Project where the
detailed database is proprietary but a variety of useful subsets or
aggregations are in the public domain.

 > However, I am in the arguably wonderful posistion to be able to draft
 > an intellectual property agreement, a code of ethics, and a transparency
 > pledge, that sort of thing.

Let's suppose that there's substantial opposition to a fully free
licensing policy.  You could use copyright plus a no-commercial-use
public license.  While almost nobody in this community would *want* to
patent something as a first choice, we have the DNA stuff as a
potential precedent for patentability + the International Characters
no-enforce-against-non-commercial-use covenant as semi-stomachable
compromise for a "last resort" ensure-the-public-can-get-it license.