WECC ADS data licensing restrictions

In the US, the Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC) publishes some pretty detailed model inputs via their Anchor Data Set (ADS), and these data are widely used by researchers and others involved in regulatory modeling exercises. We’re interested in using them too, but the scarce licensing information available on the site is discouraging. Does anybody else have experience with using this data and the legality of doing so? Thus far we’ve been meticulous about ensuring that all the inputs to our Public Utility Data Liberation Project can be freely redistributed.

On the WECC site their legal disclaimer says:

All information and materials contained on this Web site, unless otherwise specifically indicated and regardless of any passcode restrictions, is owned by WECC and may be viewed, downloaded, copied or reproduced only in compliance with applicable law. Any Web links posted, now or in the future on this Web site, are provided only as a convenience and do not constitute an endorsement of any kind by WECC. In addition, unless otherwise specifically noted, use of this Web site does not convey on the user any license, express or implied, or grant of rights to use any content or data from this Web site. WECC reserves its rights to prosecute any violations to the fullest extent of the law.

The ADS page has the following language which seems like it would be an example of “otherwise specifically noted” circumstances:

The ADS provides a data set that is intended to be a common starting point for WPR. It may be used by WECC and stakeholders to conduct PCM studies and coordinated PF/dynamic studies.

To me this all seems to indicate that they reserve the right to sue any external party using the data into oblivion at some future date (if, say, you were to get into an adversarial regulatory scrap with them while using the data…) but some of our collaborators have a more charitable interpretation, since the use of the data is already so widespread by a variety of entities for many different purposes.

Curious what y’all think.


The United States is quite lenient regarding copyright and allied rights for structured data. In terms of allied rights, the US (unlike Europe, Australia and the UK) never implemented database protection.

And following the Feist phonebook case in 1991, a modicum of human creativity is needed for copyright protection to apply.

I had a quick look at the material cited and it looks entirely pedestrian to me. So copyright would not attach and database rights are not applicable. Thus the material (given my cursory survey) should be treated as public domain.

In which case, a Creative Comons Public Domain Mark (PDM) would be the appropriate response.

Instead, some legal department has written an open-ended disclaimer (the first block quote above). The problem with not having a PDM qualifier applied is that there is always some residual legal risk as to the protected status of the material.

The ADS carve-out (the second block quote) falls well short of the accepted definition of open data and I doubt if PUDL would wish to limit usage to those stated terms.

The above comments apply solely to structured data. Accompanying technical and semantic standards and similar will doubtless attact copyright.

Intellectual property law may not be the only legal concern. But as long as you are not trying to undermine the business model of the entity providing the data, you should be reasonably safe under commercial and civil law.

The usual caveat applies: that one should seek professional legal advice specific to one’s circumstances and one should not rely on the kind of information given here in any way. HTH, R

Thank you Robbie! Glad to know that there’s some hope at least. We’ll see what the lawyers say and I’ll report back here if I can.

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This more general treatment, which covers other legal jurisdictions too, might be of interest: Legal issues related to an energy modeling knowledge commons.