Open data fact sheets - Use of licenses

What is a license?

With a license, you can manage the copyright. It is a text, in which the one who has certain rights on something (e.g. data) defines what he allows other people to do or not to do with this thing. It is a contract that the user has to accept and respect, if they wants to use this data.

"Creative Commons" licenses

Creative Commons is a non-governmental, non-profit organization that proposes standard contracts, or licenses, to allow authors to make their works available to the public online under predefined conditions. The goal is to facilitate the dissemination and sharing of works in order to contribute to a set of works freely accessible by all. Each Creative Commons (CC) license therefore predefines clear and detailed rules to regulate the limits of use of a work. By publishing a work under such a license, the author decides to authorize in advance and in a general way the use of his work or his content, according to the rules stipulated in the chosen license.

CC licenses are recognized internationally, and thus facilitate the free use of content across borders. The government's open data strategy promotes and encourages the use of CC licenses.

All these licenses are described on the website

Before publishing a content under a particular license, it is necessary to check the particular conditions of the chosen license, in order not to be mistaken about the rights you grant by adopting it.

From the user's point of view, one must also be careful: a free license is also a contract (in the form of general terms of use) that must be strictly respected. A free license does not systematically mean that any use is possible.

How do I choose the right license when I want to publish data?

I choose the following license:

All these licenses authorize third parties to share, copy, redistribute the work by any means and in any format. All these licenses except CC-BY-ND authorize any modification and publication of any modified version for any purpose, including commercial purposes. The Open Data Law states that public bodies may not restrict the commercial use of the data they publish. The use of CC licenses of the NC type (no commercial use) is therefore to be avoided on the Open data portal.

When you want to encourage reuse, it is preferable to choose the CC0 license as recommended by the Government in its Open data strategy.

An interactive tool is available on the Creative Commons website to help you choose the most appropriate license for your needs: Choosing a license at

How can I find out under which license a dataset has been published?

Go to the dataset of your choice on, then:

  1. Click on the "metadata" tab
  2. Check the license specified in the "License" section. You can click on the link that will take you to a description of the license.

If you have specific questions about open licenses in the context of open data, please contact us at

For more information

Intellectual property and copyright

In law, licenses are part of intellectual property, which is a fundamental right according to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. It distinguishes:

  • industrial property, where the author of a creation must file a deposit in order for his work to be protected (e.g. a patent to protect a technical invention);

  • literary and artistic property whose protection automatically arises at the moment when the original work is created (e.g. a music title, or a photo).

In both cases one distinguishes between economic and moral rights (together called "copyright"), which are in turn subdivided into numerous rights, as listed in the table below. According to the principle of contractual freedom they can be freely assigned and transmitted.

  • property rights = are related to the economic exploitation of the work
    • the right of reproduction
    • the right of communication to the public
    • rental and lending rights
    • the right of distribution to the public
    • the right of resale
    • the right of access
  • moral rights = create the link between the work and its author
  • the right of paternity
  • the right of disclosure
  • the right to object

The duration of copyright protection is 70 years, before the work falls into the public domain. In civil law, the public domain refers to goods that are not the private property of a person and that are assigned to the direct use of the public.

Copyright for public servants

When public servants create works in the course of their work, case law regularly recalls that it is the employer who benefits from the creations ("The rights relating to the product of the work provided by an employee in the execution of his contract of employment, including a possible copyright, are found to be held by the employer. TA. Lux. Corr. 10 February 2010, n°542/2010). Therefore, the owner of the rights is the natural or legal person who is at the initiative of the work.

Attention: there are 2 other "related" rights that must be guaranteed, the right to image and the right to privacy. It is also necessary to respect the rights in terms of data protection (RGPD).

The rights on databases

Databases play an important role in open data. It is important to know that at the level of legal protection they are a special case, because they are protected by 2 cumulative rights:

  • on the one hand, the copyright which protects the structure of the database, if it has an original character,

  • and on the other hand the "sui generis" right which protects independently the content of a database. It is a special right that only concerns databases. This protection lasts 15 years from the moment the database is completed.