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The terms of service for APIs is the single most important building block of an API strategy, one that dictates how developers can access and put API resources to use and sets the tone for an entire API ecosystem. Your API can be publicly available, but the terms of service and licensing will determine whether it is truly open.

Even with the importance of this area of API operations, there aren't a lot of open resources to help guide you through crafting your API licensing and terms of service properly--until now.

A group of swedish entrepreneurs Daniel Rudmark of Viktoria Swedish ICT, Elias Arnestrand of Samtrafiken, Anna Mirsch lawyer at Mannheimer Swartling, and Andreas Krohn at Dopter have come together to create a new project to address this need, called Swedish API License.

The goals with the project was to create an API license that...

  • Is open and free for anyone to use, encouraging maximal adoption
  • Is flexible enough to fit many different use cases
  • Respects both the publisher and the consumer of the API.
  • Easy to understand for people without a law degree

The Swedish API license covers the following areas:

  • License
  • Intellectual Property Rights
  • Processing of Personal Data
  • Technical Requirements and Limitations
  • Other Requirements of Use
  • Liability
  • Changes
  • Terms and Conditions

The Swedish API license even has an API license wizard that walks you through 13 steps of constructing and customizing your license, keeping within the legal and commercial considerations your company has around your API.

While the Swedish API License is published in Sweden, the site and licenses are in english and all the work is licensed under CC-BY license. This opens up a whole lot of opportunity to use the model around the globe.

I will be spending more time getting familiar with the approach to developing terms of service by the Swedish API License, and consider it side by side with existing efforts like Terms of Service Didn't Read and TOS Back from EFF. I'm thinking we are approaching a critical point in API growth, where we really need to start getting our house in order when it comes to open resources for API providers and API consumers.




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