Some organization publishes a dataset yearly, under CC BY 4.0, some other organization now aggregates this data into a single dataset, which they post on their github repository that is under the GPL 3.0 license, it the license of this aggregated dataset CC BY 4.0 or GPL 3.0?

  • Please clarify your specific problem or provide additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it's hard to tell exactly what you're asking.
    – Community Bot
    Mar 3 at 14:32

2 Answers 2


It depends on a number of factors:

  • Is the dataset subject to copyright or database right protection at all? In Europe, the general answer is "yes, it probably is protected by sui generis database rights, and maybe copyright," but in the US, this is dependent on the degree of originality in the selection, organization, or presentation of the dataset. Even if the US does recognize a valid copyright, it only attaches to those creative elements, and not to the actual data itself (see Feist v. Rural, and especially the rather lengthy obiter dicta the Supreme Court wrote in that opinion). If the data is not subject to any protection in a given jurisdiction, then the choice of license is irrelevant to consumers operating in that jurisdiction.
  • Did the aggregation process involve creating or computing any new data, or did they "just dump all the data in one table" and call it a day? In the latter case, database rights may still attach to the resulting dataset, but they are irrelevant as consumers could simply get the data from the original source under CC BY, and aggregate the data themselves. However, if the aggregation process actually created new data, then it may be subject to its own independent copyright and/or database right, which is licensed under the GPL according to your question.
  • Is the dataset accompanied by any software or other material? If so, that presumably has its own copyright status to consider, and is subject to whatever license it is originally distributed under.
  • Which of these factors would cause the license of the data to change because of the repository it was uploaded to.
    – Daniel
    Mar 22 at 11:31
  • @Daniel: The first bullet explains that the data is not subject to license in the first place under US law, so that might not even be the right question to ask (depending on your jurisdiction). The second bullet explains that the new repository might have different data to the old repository, which obviously matters if you're in a jurisdiction that does protect data.
    – Kevin
    Mar 22 at 17:15
  • If we assume the data is subject to copyright, though, OP's question is really easy to answer, but you didn't answer it at all.
    – Daniel
    Mar 23 at 14:24
  • @Daniel: Yes, I did. Added a sentence to the second bullet to clarify. Note that the answer as a whole is the answer to the question; I cannot simplify it into a single sentence and set it in bold, as I sometimes do, because it is too situational and complex for such simplification.
    – Kevin
    Mar 23 at 17:38

The GPL is probably not relevant here, unless the relevant copyright holder(s) contributed the data set and specifically signed a CLA or changed the license for the contribution.

The CC BY-SA is the one worth talking about. It might or might not actually apply to some portion of the data. Some of the data might or might not be copyrightable. The compilation (selected set) of the data might or might not be copyrightable. Does the data include software? Does the data include images? Do you have model releases for any pepole in the images? Are you in France, where Moral Rights might apply? Does the CC BY-SA licensor even have any of the underlying rights in the data at all?

Data licenses might be better for handling these issues.

But yeah, the GPL probably isn't relevant.

This is not legal advice and I am not your attorney.

  • The fact thatr the GPL is not tailored for licensing datasets does not mean the GPL can't be used for (the copyrightable portion of) a dataset. It is the same situation with CC licenses and software: interpretation of the license becomes awkward, but there is nothing that makes it impossible to use the license. Mar 21 at 7:47
  • It is possible to use the GPL for a data set. However, in the hypothetical above, no licensor has chosen to do so. Uploading data to a repository with an explicit license is not am act of licensing it under a different license unless there's a CLA or similar mechanism in play.
    – Daniel
    Mar 22 at 11:30
  • Unless there is a very clear indication otherwise (explicit license information, clear statement that different parts are under different licenses, etc.) the only safe assumption that you can make is that the license mentioned on a repository applies to all the content in the repository. Even if some of that content can be obtained elsewhere under a different license. Mar 22 at 13:22
  • CC-BY-SA explicitly does include database rights, under section 1(d). So calling it "not a data license" is misleading IMHO.
    – Kevin
    Mar 22 at 17:16
  • @BartvanIngenSchenau, OP's scenario mentions a very speciffic license for the data set, it doesn't make any sense to assume the repository license applies when you know the data set license applies. More specifically, OP knows that the databae is CC-BY-SA but was merely uploaded to the GPL repository, so we really know that the licensor did not choose to license under the GPL (unless there is a CLA or similar in play).
    – Daniel
    Mar 23 at 14:28

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