Chempedia Data Downloads: Free as in Free

November 10, 2009

Few non-technical topics lead to more heated debate in the field of scientific databases than terms of data reuse.

Chempedia, the free chemical substance registry, aims to be different in every significant way from the services that came before it. One of the ways this can be seen is in the terms of use for its data downloads.

There are really two bits of news here. The first is that you can now download the Chempedia Registry at no cost.

The second bit of news is that the files you download are licensed under the ultra-permissive Creative Commons CC0 License. In the most basic terms, this no-B.S. license lets anybody mash up the Chempedia Registry data for any purpose, commercial or otherwise. There is no need for attribution, no confusing legal mumbo-jumbo, no impenetrable reciprocity provisions, no dangling questions about copyright. Use the data for any purpose you desire, but don't blame Metamolecular if something bad happens.

By using CC0, Chempedia short-circuits the rancorous debate that has plagued past attempts to license chemical data. I challenge every operator of a public-facing chemical database to take similar steps.

Credit: Kudos to Egon Willighagen for introducing me to the CC0 License.