Today at O'Reilly's Etech Conference, a group of researchers announced they would be releasing several people's genome sequences online, via a file-sharing network. Anyone may download or use the data.

Science Commons' John Wilibanks made the announcement, explaining that the data would be provided by Harvard's Personal Genome Project, a group whose goal is to sequence thousands of people's genomes over the next several years. They're committed to making all the data from these genomes public, in order to foster research into everything from disease to evolution.

The first few genomes that the Personal Genome Project has sequenced will soon be available via BitTorrent, using a system developed by ProteomeCommons. The genomes are being released under a Creative Commons Zero (CC0) agreement, which places zero restrictions on how people use the data.

Wilibanks explained that the genomes themselves would not be CC licensed, since you can't copyright genomic data - but all the notes and information about the genomes would be available to the public. And the public is welcome to use the genomic data however they wish. Ultimately, he suggested, making the data available in such an accessible manner encourages scientists to share their research findings and may discourage companies from locking up the information in dubious patents.