defective by design
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.