Adobe continues to do the right thing with XMP

Mike Linksvayer, September 12th, 2008

XMP is the format Creative Commons recommends for embedding metadata (such as licensing information) in most media file types. Frankly there isn’t much competition — embedded metadata is poorly supported, formats are balkanized, and nobody save Adobe (XMP’s developer) has had the willingness to work on a problem that can only be solved over many years (programmers have to build support into software people actually use) and a platform to drive initial adoption.

Fortunately Adobe’s long term efforts are paying off. More and more software supports reading and embedding XMP with more and more file formats. This only makes sense, as more and more people have the need to manage huge media collections that previously only media houses such as ad agencies needed.

Equally fortunately, Adobe continues to make the right moves toward keeping XMP open, ensuring it continues progressing toward being the universal means of embedding metadata in media files. Last year Adobe released the XMP software development kit under the permissive BSD software license. This directly enabled Creative Commons’ liblicense to use some of this code.

Now Adobe’s XMP product manager Gunar Penikis blogs that Adobe has posted a royalty free public patent license for XMP:

This will further remove barriers to the adoption and use of XMP and a metadata standard across our partner solutions and ecosystems. Which is really exciting because better interoperability results in a better customer experience when media is exchanged across applications and services.

This is especially welcome news for the free/open source software world, including again, the code Creative Commons develops — software patents can block development and distribution of open code (e.g., see media codecs), so it is reassuring that Adobe has added a patent license to its openness strategy for XMP.

Thanks to Adobe! Incidentally, Gunar Penikis spoke about XMP at the CC technology summit held in June. See the summit page for slides and video.

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RDFa goes to W3C Proposed Recommendation

Mike Linksvayer, September 5th, 2008

Yesterday RDFa reached Proposed Recommendation status at the World Wide Web Consortium, the final stage before becoming a W3C Recommendation.

Using RDFa, one can make data in web pages rendered for humans also readable in a meaningful way by computers. This is important to Creative Commons, as we have always seen the promise of the Semantic Web to describe licenses and make works more findable and reusable, ironically it has always been difficult to bring the Semantic Web to the World Wide Web we’re all used to using and loving. RDFa is a crucial bridge to bring these worlds together.

Creative Commons, primarily through the efforts of Ben Adida, our W3C Representative (see a recent interview with him at the Yahoo! Search Blog), has been a major contributor to the development of RDFa since 2004. I strongly suspect the standard would have taken more than four years without CC’s contributions.

You can read an in-depth description of some of the early CC use cases for RDFa in a paper we released earlier this year, including machine-readable attribution and description of images and other resources included in web pages.

CC’s technology team, led by Nathan Yergler, is also a leading implementer of RDFa, which is now used throughout our open source projects, including our license chooser and license deeds.

Check out the RDFa wiki for tutorials, examples, and code.

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Semantic Media Wiki Quick Reference Guide

Fred Benenson, August 25th, 2008

Creative Commons uses Semantic Media Wiki for both our external wiki and our internal task and project management system.

As opposed to a normal wiki where text is “flat”, the text and data inside a SMW can be structured in sophisticated ways that allow for meaningful querying of knowledge statements of the corpus. To give a more concrete example, a list of United States Vice Presidents by longevity must be maintained by humans on Wikipedia, whereas a similar list can be automatically generated via a query inside a semantic media wiki (supposing there are pages about the presidents in the first place). Or in the case of Creative Commons’ wiki, we use SMW to store information about case studies, which can then be recalled in interesting ways, such as listing all Creative Commons licensed projects that use text and are based in Australia. You can see the exact query used to generate that list by clicking “edit query” on the page. Try changing the country to something else to get a feel for how the search works.

One final aspect about SMW that makes it relevant to CC’s work is that it automatically creates RDF (the language of the semantic web) statements about pages. This gives any semantic media wiki a machine-readable output that allows for easy parsing by machines.

Sound familliar? That’s because Creative Commons encourages the use of RDFa to express license information about objects in webpages. RDFa is meant to be the “human readable” version of RDF which also contains machine readable statements. Think of it as extra-fancy XHTML with semantic sparkle dust.

Despite some real leaps in user-interface design for SMWs, editing and querying them remains a little confusing. Yaron Koren, the developer behind the essential Semantic Forms extension, has created a “quick reference guide” that he’s released under Creative Commons’ Attribution license.

Yaron has made the guide available in three formats so that it is easy to print (pdf), remix (svg), and read (png).

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