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Re: [Gnumed-devel] trivial pursuit with loinc

From: Tim Churches
Subject: Re: [Gnumed-devel] trivial pursuit with loinc
Date: 10 Oct 2004 10:05:33 +1000

On Sun, 2004-10-10 at 09:30, Ian Haywood wrote:
> On Sun, Oct 10, 2004 at 07:21:05AM +1000, Tim Churches wrote:
> > On Sun, 2004-10-10 at 02:35, James Busser wrote:
> > >
> > > 
> > > The license is not "named" but does it translate as "freeware"? (Not sure 
> > > if "freeware" is anywhere formally defined)
> "free software" IS defined (
> and LOINC falls short as it restricts modification. IMHO this is not
> a big issue as we don't want to modify LOINC, and the licence is
> otherwise quite liberal. The only problem is with Debian packaging: a
> separate LOINC package is needed for "non-free".
> Tim, what is "the former" which is unsatisfactory: LOINC, or the AusPath
> codes?


The Auspath request codes are copyright Standards Australia, with a
statement that "the Commonwealth", presumably meaning the Australian
(federal) govt, has "unfettered rights to use the material". Whoever
wrote that doesn't understand IP licensing. Apart from being vague as to
whom the "unfettered rights" are granted, and as to exactly what
"unfettered rights" means, as a standard the codes are dead in the water
if other organisations are not granted rights to use the codes freely -
and currently they are clearly not. I have brought this to Michael
legg's attention previously.

For the report codes, it says: "Copyright of the Report Code list vests
with The Regenstrief Institute (
for the LOINC component and for the rest, vests with the Commonwealth."
So there is not even a license for anyone else to use "the rest" of the
codes, which are copyright "the Commonwealth". Given that the LOINC
codes and "the rest" appear to be entangled in the codeset, it is
currently impossible for anyone else to use the codes without having to
beg "the Commonwealth" (who exactly? Canberra is a big place...) for

This situation needs to be fixed by the code maintainers. I suggest that
they hire someone like Brendan Scott to provide some informed advice,
and to accept the principle that standard code sets must be made freely
available to anyone and everyone to use as they see fit, without having
to ask permission (or even worse, pay a license fee).

The AIHW National Health Data Dictionary and National Health
Knowledgebase both suffer from the same defects - they are useful
metadata repositories, but last time I looked there was no license
provided which allows the use of the metadata without committing a
criminal breach of the Copyright Act, unless you obtain written
permission from AIHW. At least that's how it appears to me. I ahve also
brought this to the attention of Richard Madden (director of AIHW)
several months ago .


Tim C

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