Advice: Understanding our licence requirement

Advice: Understanding our licence requirement

People pointing at a laptop screen
Making the digital outputs from your project open for engagement, use and reuse means more people can connect with UK heritage than ever before.

At The National Lottery Heritage Fund, we are committed to ensuring the greatest possible public, social and economic benefit from the work we fund. Today (16 September) we are updating our licencing requirements to better support that.

Use of digital technologies to create opportunities to connect to heritage are more important than ever. We have long understood the power of open licences to:

  • enable people to actively engage with heritage
  • support the use, reuse and development of publicly funded resources

“Our new licencing requirement helps us to increase access to the UK’s rich heritage and promote the innovative use of digital across the sector.”

Josie Fraser, Head of Digital Policy

What is an open licence?

An open licence provides upfront permission for resources to be used, shared and reused, as long as the terms of the licence are met.

We require all of the projects we fund to share the digital resources they create under an open licence. This includes images, research, educational materials, project reports, software, web and app content, databases, 3D models, sound and video recordings.

See our digital guide: working with open licences for more information, including practical advice on how to use open licences in your project. 

Man recording a podcast

What's changing

Previously, our default licence was the Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial (CC-BY-NC) licence. Our new default is the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license (CC-BY 4.0).

Open licences ensure that due credit and recognition is given to the organisations and/or individuals responsible for creating the works.

Connecting people with heritage

Open licences provide the opportunity for communities to get hands on with heritage. They open the door to using and reusing the wealth of resources funded by National Lottery players for a wide range of purposes, including education. This helps ensure digital resources funded by the public remain freely and openly accessible to the public.

This might include:

  • use in educational resources by schools
  • curation of digital resources across collections and organisations
  • extending the reach of UK heritage through open knowledge platforms such as Wiki Commons and Wiki Data

School group using tablets and laptops

The new default licence also removes the barrier to commercial use, which enables the Heritage Fund to better support the sector in relation to innovation and enterprise. The sector is taking a fresh look at its business models and digital services, including paid for services. We will be helping heritage organisations plan for this as part of its recovery support work.

Josie Fraser, Head of Digital Policy for the Heritage Fund explains how these changes will benefit the sector: “Our new licencing requirement helps us to increase access to the UK’s rich heritage and promote the innovative use of digital across the sector.”

More about our updated requirement:

Grantees will continue to own the rights to the work produced under their grant. As before, we ask them to apply an open licence to the works they produce and make these publicly available online for at least five years.

From September 2020, our default licence is Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0), or an equivalent. Where code and metadata are produced in the course of the project, this should be shared under a Creative Commons 0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0) Public Domain Dedication, or equivalent.

Items created in the process of the project, for example emails between team members and records of meetings, are not required to be shared or openly licensed. We do however encourage projects to share their processes and findings and work as openly as possible for the benefit of others.

Works already in the Public Domain fall outside the scope of this requirement. To make sure these materials are not mistaken for materials under copyright, we recommend that projects should clearly identify public domain assets by using a Creative Commons 0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0) Public Domain Dedication or equivalent. No new rights should arise in non-original materials resulting from the reproduction of public domain works supported by grant funding. Digital reproductions of public domain materials, including photographic images and 3D data, should be shared under a CC0 1.0 Public Domain Dedication.

The National Lottery Heritage Fund is here to support, promote and help increase access to the UK’s rich heritage. We are happy to support any current projects, funded before September 2020, who would like to switch to the current licence requirements.

For some projects, alternative arrangements or exceptions to our default licence may be appropriate. These include digital outputs that:

  • depict people who are currently under 18 years old
  • have special category data, for example, oral history interviews
  • are produced by or depicting vulnerable adults

Projects should raise any potential licensing issues as early as possible in the application process, or, if currently receiving an award, with their Investment Manager.

The review process raised wider issues relating to the increasing recognition of the role of ethics in relation to copyright and licencing. For example:

  • issues with digitising artefacts or works from other cultures
  • the requirement for contributors to transfer their rights to organisations
  • the status of research, data, and other media produced around spiritual works, funerary objects and human remains

As the UK’s largest funder of heritage, The National Lottery Heritage Fund has a responsibility to encourage, contribute to and learn from ongoing discussions and work to address discrimination in all its forms.

We encourage all projects to consider the increasing recognition of the role of ethics in relation to copyright, licencing and cultural heritage management.

The National Lottery Heritage Fund would like to thank the following individuals and organisations who participated in our licensing review advisory group:

Maria Adebowale-Schwarte, CEO of the Foundation for FutureLondon and Founding Director of the Living Space Project

Lucy Crompton-Reid, Chief Executive at Wikimedia UK

Kelly Foster, open knowledge advocate, public historian and founding organiser of AfroCROWD UK,

Abira Hussein, researcher and producer, co-founder and leader at the Nomad Project

Dafydd James, Head of Digital and Strategic Projects Lead at Amgueddfa Cymru/National Museum Wales

Sam Roberts, Head of Open Government and Open Government, Cabinet Office

Fiona Romeo, Senior Program Manager, GLAM and Culture at the Wikimedia Foundation.

Anasuya Sengupta, Co-Director and Co-Founder of Whose Knowledge?

Tom Steinberg, founder of MySociety 

Simon Tanner, Professor of Digital Cultural Heritage and Vice Dean (People & Planning) in the Department of Digital Humanities at King’s College London

Dr Andrea Wallace, Lecturer in Law at the University of Exeter

Neil Wyatt , Senior Heritage Policy Adviser at Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS)

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