Open Knowledge

Defining Open in Open Data, Open Content and Open Knowledge
17 December 2012 by Mike Linksvayer

Open Defintion (OD) is one of the first projects that the the Open Knowledge Foundation created. Its purpose has been to provide, promote – and protect – a meaningful Open in Open Data and Open Content.

It does this primarily through curating the Open Knowledge Definition (OKD), working with license stewards to ensure new licenses intending to be open are clearly so, and keeping lists of licenses that conform to the OKD, and those that do not – providing any entity intending to create an open project, or mandate “open” in policy, with a clear reference as to which licenses will achieve their aims.

With the growth in “open” and especially of open data initiatives in the last few years there has been an increasing amount for the project to do especially in terms of reviewing and evaluating licenses. For 2013 we see several important areas of work:

  • OKD v1.2 – we’ve seen license conditions cropping up that are certainly contrary to the spirit of the definition and implicitly non-conformant. It ought be possible for anyone with some understanding of public licenses to do a quick read of the definition and understand its meaning for a particular license without having to know all of the history of open definitions and licenses.

  • Review important new licenses and license versions for OKD compliance, e.g. Open Government License Canada, and version 4.0 of CC-BY and CC-BY-SA.

  • Moving linguistic translations into a git repository for better review and updating.

  • Improve explanations and graphics available on the OD site for anyone who wants to learn about open knowledge and services, and proudly announce to the world that their projects are open.

  • Extend our work on license APIs that provide information about open licenses at and integrate with the main OD site; also look to cooperate with other projects providing Linked Open Data about licenses.

  • Provide regular updates about OD work to the broader OKFN network, open communities, and general public.

  • Develop a version git-based repository of license texts so they can be tracked over time

  • Growing out of discussions in 2006 and 2007, the OD project developed the Open Software Service Definition (OSSD), recognizing the complementarity of open content and data (knowledge) and open source web platforms and other network services that open knowledge is created, curated, and distributed on. The OSSD hasn’t been touched in a long time, but software services (some of them called “the cloud”) have become more important than ever, including in domains nearest to the OKFN community’s most active work, such as platforms used by and for open government. Shall we update the OSSD and revitalize evangelism for open services, or declare not a core competency, and look to other groups to take leadership?

If you’re a legal or policy expert, software freedom advocate, linked data hacker, translator, designer, communications maven – and want to go “meta” about openness, we could use your help! Join the od-discuss mailing list and pitch into the discussion, start a new one, or lurk until you’re ready.

Final decisions about license conformance and definition updates are made by the Open Definition Advisory Council. This is not a big time commitment, but it is a big responsibility. If you’d like to join the AC someday, join od-discuss today.

We’re especially keen to have AC members from every continent. Currently we only have Europe and North America, and recognize that’s a big problem for the long-term impact of the Open Definition project. Especially if you’re from the global South and care about the fundamentals of openness, please join od-discuss and get in touch!