Sunday, 25 March 2007

Can we license data? - part I

Following on from my last post, Jon Robinson asked me whether it was feasible to license data. He said to me "What I think would be enlightening would be creating a taxonomy of information that needs to be secured or leveraged in one form or another and then listing the best alternatives for doing so."

The securing or the leveraging is utility of the information. It comes down to ownership of the data, its permanence and perceived value, i.e. this really boils down to "what is 'private' data?"

One of the problems with data is that once it’s in the public domain, it loses it’s identity (unless it IS an identity), whereas a process, or utility, is still identifiable as the original, it has a fingerprint, or some part of it does, and can therefore be licensed more easily. If the data IS an identity of some sort, then we have a different issue, it is identifiable as the original and therefore always has a value, hence why identity theft is a problem. Maybe therefore data either has identity, or none, and if you can’t prove the identity, then if you try to license it, you can’t collect. If we can prove that the data in it’s original form falls under our own license, then we should be able to charge for it, i.e. a copy of a book, a print of a painting, etc.

This is why there is such value in proper data integrity, proving that the original data is still original, to a more granular level than digital certs hopefully. What is harder to do is retrieve data or reconstruct data once it is lost, so an 'idea' can be rearranged and still be a pretty close copy, without bearing any relation to the original fingerprint, this is a real world issue with copyright and trademarks still.

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