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Thursday, July 18, 2024 | Back issues
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‘Free’ Database, Startup Settle Licensing Snafu

(CN) - A mobile app creator and AOL-backed CrunchBase settled a licensing dispute over free tech data that will require commercial users to get a separate license, digital watchdog group Electronic Frontier Foundation announced.

Three-person startup Pro Populi used CrunchBase's database - including information on tech companies, people and investors - to build an iOS-based tech directory app called People+. The app will also be available for the Google Glass in 2014, according to the People+ website.

Previously, CrunchBase made its data available under a Creative Commons license, and allowed anyone to use the information as long as the company received credit. But it also claimed the right to shut down some uses of the material, and demanded that Pro Populi stop using its data under that clause.

Creative Commons, a suite of standardized licenses for creative work, provides authors and artists with the ability to keep "some rights reserved" as well as rights to receive credit and prevent commercial use while still allowing work to spread freely and reused on the Internet without legal threat.

EFF said that Crunchbase's move to shut down Pro Populi's app was at odds with the Creative Commons license. So the group sat down with the parties to hammer out an agreement, and eventually CrunchBase agreed to revise its terms of service and allow People+ continued use of the data.

"Fortunately, the norms and values of the open content community were a roadmap to resolving the argument," EFF said Thursday in a statement announcing the agreement. "After discussions among CrunchBase, People+ and EFF, People+ will continue to use the material it has gathered under the Creative Commons Attribution License. "Going forward, CrunchBase has revised its terms of service and now licenses its content under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license, which will require a separate license for commercial uses."

People+ co-founder and CEO Peter Berger said his company is "thrilled" with the outcome.

"CrunchBase's new terms of service are clearer and more in line with the best practices of the open content community," Berger said. "The new terms should allow developers to reuse and build on the CrunchBase dataset with greater confidence. We are thrilled with the outcome and are looking forward to continue growing the app and the company far beyond this controversy."

On its website, CrunchBase claims its mission is "to make information about the startup world available to everyone and maintainable by anyone." Accordingly, CrunchBase President Matt Kaufman cheered the EFF's role in the dispute.

"We are grateful to the Electronic Frontier Foundation for playing an instrumental role in updating the CrunchBase terms of service," Kaufman said. "At their suggestion, we adopted Creative Commons 4.0 and open content best practices. These updates provide more clarity to our community and provide a stronger foundation from which to build and extend the CrunchBase dataset."

EFF staff attorney Mitch Stoltz said Crunchbase's change of heart affirms the purpose of the open content community."Offering content under the most permissive CC license while claiming the right to shut down uses they didn't like was a bit misleading," Stoltz said. "CrunchBase's new terms of service are clearer and more in line with the best practices of the open content community. The new terms should allow developers to re-use and build on the CrunchBase dataset with greater confidence."

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