[okd-discuss] RFC: Open Knowledge Definition v0.1

Rufus Pollock rufus.pollock at okfn.org
Sun Aug 21 10:05:03 BST 2005

Dear All,

Below is a first draft of an open knowledge definition. The intent is to 
get down in a simple but clear way what open knowledge means and the 
principles that open knowledge licenses should embody. The concept of 
openness has already started to spread rapidly beyond its original roots 
  in software with 'open access' journals, open genetics, open geodata, 
open content etc.

However just as with software we can expect (or are already) seeing a 
proliferation of licenses and a potential blurring of what is open and 
what is not. A good definition will serve to promote compatibility, 
guard against dilution and provide a common thread to diverse projects 
across a multiplicity of disciplines.

This is a first draft and all comments and corrections will be much 
appreciated. If it would be convenient the draft below can be made 
available as html.



Open Knowledge Definition


A work is **open** if it is accessible, reproducible and re-usable 
without legal, social or technological restriction.


The idea of openness and its specific expression here owe a huge debt to 
Free and Open Source software movement. In particular much of the below 
draws directly from the Open Source Definition available at: 

Definition of Knowledge for the Purposes of this Document

Knowledge is taken to include:
   1. Content such as music, films, books
   2. Data be it scientific, historical, geographic or otherwise
   3. Government and other administrative information

Software is excluded despite its obvious centrality because it is 
already adequately addressed by previous work. In fact, it is those 
efforts that provide the inspiration and foundation for this document.


Throughout the term work will be used to denote the item or piece of 
knowledge which is being transferred.

The term package may also be used to denote a collection of works. Of 
course such a package may be considered a work in itself.

The Definition

A work is open if it distribution complies with the following:

0. Access

The work shall be available as a whole and at no more than a reasonable 
reproduction cost, preferably downloading via the Internet without 
charge. The work must also be available in a convenient and modifiable form.

   Comment: This can be summarized as 'social' openness -- not only are 
you /allowed/ to get the work but you /can/ get it. 'As a whole' 
prevents the limitation of access by indirect means, for example by only 
allowing access to a few items of a database at a time.

1. Redistribution

The license shall not restrict any party from selling or giving away the 
work either on its own or as part of a package made from works from many 
different sources. The license shall not require a royalty or other fee 
for such sale or distribution.

2. Re-Use

The license must allow for modifications and derivative works and must 
allow them to be distributed under the terms of the original software.

   Comment: Note that this clause does not prevent the use of 'viral' or 
share-alike licenses that require redistribution of modifications under 
the same terms as the original.

3. Absence of Technological Restriction

The work must be provided in such a form that there are no technological 
obstacles to the performance of the above activities. This can be 
achieved by the provision of the work in an open data format, i.e. one 
which places no restrictions monetary or otherwise upon its users. [[ed: 
think this is too cumbersome + getting in to definition of open format]]

4. Attribution

The license may require as a condition for redistribution and re-use the 
attribution of the contributors and creators to the work. If this 
condition is imposed it must not be onerous, for example a list of those 
requiring attribution should accompany the work.

5. Integrity

The license may require as a condition for the work being distributed in 
modified form that the resulting work carry a different name or version 
number from the original work.

6. No Discrimination Against Persons or Groups

The license must not discriminate against any person or group of persons.

7. No Discrimination Against Fields of Endeavor

The license must not restrict anyone from making use of the work in a 
specific field of endeavor. For example, it may not restrict the work 
from being used in a business, or from being used for genetic research.

8. Distribution of License

The rights attached to the work must apply to all to whom the program is 
redistributed without the need for execution of an additional license by 
those parties.

9. License Must Not Be Specific to a Product

The rights attached to the work must not depend on the work being part 
of a particular package. If the work is extracted from that package and 
used or distributed within the terms of the work's license, all parties 
to whom the work is redistributed should have the same rights as those 
that are granted in conjunction with the original package.

10. License Must Not Restrict the Distribution of Other Works

The license must not place restrictions on other works that are 
distributed along with the licensed work. For example, the license must 
not insist that all other works distributed on the same medium are open.

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