You can look but not touch
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You can look but not touch

via iPhylo

“The Plant List ( has been released today, complete with glowing press releases. The list includes some 1,040,426 names. I eagerly looked for the Download button, but none is to be found. You can grab download individual search results (say, at family level), but not the whole data set.

OK, so that makes getting the complete data set a little tedious (there are 620 plant families in the data set), but we can still do it without too much hassle (in fact, I’ve grabbed the complete data set while writing this blog post). Then I see that the data is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs (CC BY-NC-ND) license. Creative Commons is good, right? In this case, not so much. The CC BY-NC-ND license includes the clause:

You may not alter, transform, or build upon this work.

So, you can look but not touch. You can’t take this data (properly attributed, or course) and build your own list, for example with references linked to DOIs, or to the Biodiversity Heritage Library (which is, of course, exactly what I plan to do). That’s a derivative work, and the creators of the Plant List don’t want you to do that…”

AJ Cann

Alan Cann is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Leicester and formerly Internet Consulting Editor for AoB.

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