As biological disciplines extend into the ‘big data’ world, they will need a names-based infrastructure to index and interconnect distributed data. The infrastructure must have access to all names of all organisms if it is to manage all information. There is no single compilation of all species nor of all names of organisms. Those who compile lists of species or names hold different views as to the intellectual property rights that apply to the lists. This creates uncertainty as to how names and compilations of names should be licensed, what conditions should apply to their re-use, and how to attribute the efforts of authors and others involved in making them available. The uncertainty, and in some cases protectionism, impedes the much-needed infrastructure that will enable sharing of biological data in the digital world. The laws in the United States of America and European Union are consistent with the position that scientific names of organisms and their compilation in checklists, classifications or taxonomic revisions are not subject to copyright. The spellings of names are facts and cannot be owned by individuals. Compilations of names, such as classifications or checklists, are presented in widely used layouts and are not creative in the sense of copyright law - even when considerable intellectual effort was needed to assemble them. A ‘blue list’ is presented that identifies familiar elements of checklists, classifications and monographs, and to which intellectual property rights do not apply. The absence of intellectual property rights stands in contrast to licensing statements associated with compilations that imply that rights apply. Many content providers desire credit for their efforts. In order to promote sharing, authors of taxonomic content, compilers, intermediaries, and aggregators should receive citable recognition for their contributions, with the greatest recognition being given to the originating authors.