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Free Software Foundation introduces RDF for GNU licenses

Mike Linksvayer, June 22nd, 2009

We’re very happy to note that the Free Software Foundation has introduced RDF for GNU licenses. This means the FSF has described each of its licenses at a high level in the same “machine readable” framework that CC uses to describe our licenses.

CC worked with the FSF to extend our vocabulary for describing copyright licenses in RDF, but it’s key to understand that no collaboration was required. They could have extended our vocabulary without asking or published their own without reference to ours, leaving it to third parties to describe mappings between the two (also using RDF). As with free software, using the semantic web means users have the freedom to innovate without asking for permission. Perhaps it is no surprise that cutting edge semantic web software tends to be free software. It feels like there may be under-exploited connections to be drawn between the free software and semantic web communities, e.g., hinted at in Evan Prodromou’s keynote at the FSF’s LibrePlanet conference, somewhat as it feels there may be under-exploited connections between the free software and free culture communities.

Less philosophically, we hope this small affordance helps others build tools which make it easier to find and use free software. For example, this list of free software hosting facilities is only the tip of the iceberg, and rapidly growing due to the rise of distributed version control systems. More project metadata will help computers help make sense of it all.

It’s also worth noting that RDF descriptions of licenses such as CC’s and now the FSF’s give users an additional tool to use to find and manage information, in contrast with Digital RightsRestrictions Management, which gives the publishers of information a tool to abuse users. For more on the latter, of course see the FSF’s Defective By Design campaign.

5 Responses to “Free Software Foundation introduces RDF for GNU licenses”

  1. Andy Dingley says:

    This is great news, but where are either the for GPL or the extended vocabulary for describing them?

  2. Andy,

    The extended vocabulary is at http://creativecommons.org/ns#

    RDF is <link>’d from FSF’s stable license links, eg http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-3.0.html and http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-3.0.rdf

  3. Could you get in contact with creativecommons, to make the GPLv3 fully supported by creativecommons?

    For example I just saw that inkscape doesn’t offer GPLv3 as preselection, though it offers all major cc licenses. When I work for a GPLv3 program, it reduces licensing confusion to just use the GPL for the artwork, too (as for example Battle for Wesnoth does: http://wesnoth.org ).

  4. argl… braintypo: This should read: Could you get in contact with the FSF to get the GPLv3 fully supported in creativecommons?

  5. Hi Arne,

    Inkscape (I’m looking at 0.47) allows you to provide a license URI. I’d suggest using http://www.fsf.org/licensing/licenses/gpl.html (or gpl-3.0.html if you really want to specify version).

    CC probably isn’t going to create a “wrapper” for GPLv3, but rather encourage people to use the FSF’s URI for the license. We just haven’t gotten to updating the /choose on our site to reflect that. Rough plan is to have something like /choose/software that just recommends using the FSF’s URIs, since occasionally people come to CC looking for a software license.

    By the way, my personal recommendation for game artwork would be to dual license under GPL and CC BY-SA (assuming you want copyleft) so it can be used easily in non-software contexts.

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