Management of Intellectual Property within Rawseeds

The Rawseeds website has the purpose of being a powerful and flexible mean of dissemination and exchange of material throughout the robotics community, and as such it needs a clearly defined policy regarding Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) issues. The material that will be published by the site can be divided into two broad categories:

  1. material produced by the Rawseeds Project itself;
  2. material voluntarily submitted for publication by the users of the website.

Both will be subject to the same IPR regime: Rawseeds requires that any material published on the website complies with the following three requisites:

  • R1: its creator chose to make that material publicly available;
  • R2: the rights granted by the creator to the users of the material are clearly and explicitly defined;
  • R3: the material must qualify as useful and appropriate for publication.

Requisite R1 is automatically satisfied by the fact that it is the free choice of each user of Rawseeds if she/he wants to publish any of her/his creations, and which ones (if any). The upload process will require that a the user has been registered, so that anyone who contributed to Rawseeds is identifiable, if needed. During the registration process the user will be warned that any material submitted for publication will, if approved, become publicly available.

To meet requisite R2, any contributor to Rawseeds will have to accompany the submitted material with a license stating which rights she/he reserves to herself/himself and which are instead granted to the public. So intellectual property of any material published by Rawseeds will remain to its creator, who (with the act of submitting the material for publication) chooses to relinquish part of the rights on it to the public. Which rights are actually given to the public is be defined by the chosen license.

To foster the sharing of knowledge we do not pose any limit to material submission by external partners, including companies of any kind. Rawseeds will not force its contributors to choose a specific license. On the contrary, we will leave the choice of the license to the user who submits the material for publication, with the only constraint that a copy of the chosen license is sent along with the material. In case of publication, the license will be published on the website along with the associated content, and it will be possible to download it for inspection before downloading the content it is associated to.

Nonetheless, one of the aims of Rawseeds is the promotion of a diffuse sharing attitude in the robotics field: the partners are convinced that the more “open” a contribution is (i.e. the more freedom is conceded to the user over its possible uses) and the more useful it will be – in the long run – for the progress of this sector, both from the scientific and the commercial points of view. For this reason on the Rawseeds website will be present a list of Rawseeds Suggested Licences (RSLs), which will be proposed as “suggested choices” in the process of submitting any new material. Of course, this process will also include the option to choose a license other than the RSLs. Amongst all existing licensing schemes, the RSLs will be chosen with the following objectives:

  • to maximise diffusion and usefulness of the published contributions, while at the same time granting effective protection of the intellectual property of their creators;
  • to encourage the formation, among the users of the Rawseeds website, of a cultural climate favouring the sharing of results and tools;
  • to constitute a sufficiently flexible set to fit most needs, but not so extended as to be confusing.

A complete list of the RSLs, with links to the associated web pages, will be published on the Rawseeds website. Anyone wanting to submit a contribution under one of these licenses will not have to manually upload the chosen license, as that will be made by the website itself; on the contrary, licenses not belonging to the RSL set will have to be manually uploaded. Initially the RSLs will include the following licenses:

  • for any kind of material, all the licenses issued by Creative Commons (CC is a nonprofit organization that offers flexible copyright licenses for creative works);
  • in addition, and mainly for software, all the licenses certified by the Open Source Initiative (OSI is a non-profit corporation dedicated to managing and promoting the “Open Source” definition).

To be included in the RSL set, a license will have to conjugate strong protection of IPR from the legal point of view with the possibility, for the users of the licensed material, to effectively build (and possibly publish) new results over the previously published ones, without violating the license. While OSI-certified licenses strongly limit the amount of rights retained by the content creator, the CC licensing scheme includes a broad spectrum of possible licenses, with widely different characteristics. CC licenses can be applied to source code, so source code contributions could be uploaded as RSL licensed material and nonetheless not as Open Source Software.

Any material produced within the Rawseeds Project and published on the Rawseeds website will be subject to a license belonging to the RSL set.

Finally, to meet requisite R3 any contribution will have to be recognized as useful and appropriate by Rawseeds: this happens if all of the following are true:

  • it is related in some way to the field of robotics, and it fits within the scope of the Rawseeds Project;
  • it can help, in some way, progress in the field of robotics;
  • it is sufficiently detailed to be usable (e.g., the description of an algorithm must be complete enough to allow a reader to write a piece of software implementing it);
  • it is usable (e.g., executable code is usable only if it is actually working and accompanied by all the information needed to install and configure it);
  • it does not have commercial purposes only (e.g., a company marketing robotic products could publish the description of a product, but that description will need to disclose enough data about the product to be considered a worthwhile contribution to the field in itself rather than a marketing operation).

Rawseeds will have the right to withdraw from the site any already published material which – at a successive re-evaluation – is judged to be non-compliant to requisites R1, R2 and/or R3. This includes also, but not only, the case of material that is outdated due to technical advancement or availability of better equivalents, or material that has been confuted totally or partially. Each contributor maintains the rights over his/her published material stated by the license chosen during the publication phase, but has not the right to force the removal of that material from the Rawseeds website. This limitation will prevent the creator of a successful contribution, i.e. one over which many others have worked and constructed afterwards, from having the power to lower the value of those successive works by removing her/his own work from Rawseeds. However, it will be possible to send motivated requests of content removal to Rawseeds.