Toronto Open Data: third party rights

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Stewart C. Russell

Oct 7, 2016, 12:40:10 PM10/7/16
to DataTO
Hi - happy pre-Thanksgiving to you all!

I wonder if anyone on the City Data Team would be able to comment if
there are any of the city's data sets that are likely to have issues
with third party rights?

A bit of background: The City's data licence, like all OGL variants, has
a third party rights exemption (“This licence does not grant you any
right to use: … Third party rights the Information Provider is not
authorized to licence;”). This clause exempts the City from any
liability if a data set is found to contain proprietary data.

In the UK, this clause has recently caused great difficulties for a
government-sponsored open data initiative working on a free address
database*. Some of the data that the the UK group wished to use,
although published under the OGL, had been cleansed/augmented against a
closed data source. As such, those sources had conflicting third party
rights preventing their further distribution.

Would the City be able to confirm if there are any data sets that:

1. were collected by City staff for City purposes and published
unmodified — these would almost certainly be free of third party rights

2. although collected by City staff for City purposes, may have been
derived from/compared against a proprietary data source — it would be a
grey area if these were clear of third party rights concerns;

3. were licensed to the City after collection by a third party — these
would be difficult to reuse/remix unless the third party explicitly gave
up all rights on their work.

I realize that the exemption is there for a purpose, but it does make
using open data just that little bit more difficult.


*: for more details, please see p.48 and on at

Devin Tu

Dec 22, 2016, 3:18:07 PM12/22/16
to DataTO
No, its completed Open Data and you can reuse, resell it, and do it for whatever you please.  The Open Data license is super clear.  
We use Toronto Open Data as a 3rd party and charge for services.  

Secondly, you should e-mail the Toronto Open Data team directly but you won't get a response more than what I provide.  If you read the Open Data license, it pretty clear cut that third party can use it.  If you are worried, consult a lawyer but I doubt you need to.

Stewart C. Russell

Dec 22, 2016, 5:16:16 PM12/22/16
Hi Devin,

> No, its completed Open Data and you can reuse, resell it, and do it for
> whatever you please. The Open Data license is super clear.
> We use Toronto Open Data as a 3rd party and charge for services.

Thanks for your response, but you misread my question. This isn't about
a third party (eg: me or OpenStreetMap) using the data. It's about the
Open Government Licence saying that the data user (you and me) may be
liable to a claim from a third party holding rights to the data (Google,
or the company that does the LIDAR data correction, say).

The licence basically says: Hey User, the City thinks you're free to use
this data in any way, but if someone claims they have rights to the data
and brings a court case against the city, we're not going to shield the
users from this claim. It's one of the reasons that you must include an
attribution statement in any use of the data: it's a paper trail for any
legal action. You have to let your users know that the data may be
subject to claim.

Maybe I'm working with very cautious data licensing people, but that
exemption 6c in the city licence can't be ignored.


Devin Tu

Jan 13, 2017, 2:59:36 PM1/13/17
to DataTO
I understand your questions and once again the Open Data license agreement is pretty clear and they use the standard international Open Data license that other countries and city use.  It isn't perfect and there is probably some liability caution in there but it is an Open as you can get.  If your people are so sensitive about about using Open Data, you should get advice from a IP and copyright lawyer for interpretation and liabilities.

You can see that ESRI, Google and other large companies have already pulled parcel boundaries into their base maps for their commerical products for Toronto, so it looks like they have also taken that risk.

I totally see huge gaps and grey area in Open Data and public domain information in Ontario and Canada and its liabilities but its pretty much Open Data and been vetted by the the city, so that is as close as you can get to almost no liability.  E-mail the City of Toronto directly but the disclaimer are clear on their website especially with parcel data which is controversial.
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