Following a legal dispute with Pro Populi, the company behind startup database People+, CrunchBase is announcing new terms of service. CrunchBase data will now be available through a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 license.
CrunchBase President Matt Kaufman also told me, “People+ has agreed to operate under our revised Terms of Service,” which presumably ends the legal fight.
(Conflict of interest alert: As the names imply, CrunchBase and TechCrunch have always had close ties, and we’re part of the same team at AOL.)
The dispute arose when CrunchBase tried to stop the startup from using its data, suggesting that People+ was just creating a copycat competitor. The position taken by People+, and then by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, was that CrunchBase had the right to decide who accesses its data through its API, but People+ had the right to continue using the data it had already collected, because it was licensed under Creative Commons.
Put another way: The CrunchBase team ended up looking like it didn’t really understand how Creative Commons worked, or at least that’s what the vast majority of online commentary suggested.
But like I said, it seems like the legal situation is resolved, and the new terms will hopefully prevent similar conflicts in the future. As I understand it, the big change is that the data is only available under Creative Commons for non-commercial use. If the use is commercial, you’ll need to get a license from CrunchBase.
This is how Kaufman explained the change in an email:
Our position is that the old terms made that clear, but EFF and People+ argued that you cannot leverage Creative Commons while attaching additional terms (found in the TOS and license) to Creative Commons. It’s a “spirit” vs. “letter of the law” debate with no resolution. The new terms make our position unambiguous.
Meanwhile, People+ co-founder and director of product Kate Scisel told me:
We have been overwhelmed and thankful for the support of EFF and the tech community particularly Hacker News and some of the original team who created CrunchBase. We are thrilled with the outcome and are looking forward to continue growing our product and the company far beyond this controversy.