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Created: March 07, 2005.
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ODRL Initiative Releases Draft Specification of ODRL Creative Commons Profile.


The ODRL Initiative has announced the release of the ODRL Creative Commons Profile as a Draft Specification. The draft "describes the semantics of the Creative Commons licenses and defines how they can be represented using a Profile of the ODRL rights expression language." Both ODRL and Creative Commons licenses use XML markup to express rights assertions in digital works. The goal of the ODRL Profile is to enable those who require more advanced rights expression language (REL) mechanisms "to utilize both the Creative Commons license semantics and the ODRL REL features together. The purpose of the ODRL Profile is not to replace the standard CC licenses, but to allow additional semantics to be expressed in separate ODRL offers or agreements."

The Creative Commons project is a non-profit initiative which provides to the public a set of copyright licenses free of charge. The licenses are embeddable in web pages, MP3 files, and other (binary) digital assets, and "help people tell the world that copyrighted works are free for sharing" in various ways, but only under the conditions specified by the CC license. A Creative Commons license has three forms: (1) simple, plain-language summary of the license called a Commons Deed; (2) a fine-print document with legal code to ensure that the license will stand up in court; (3) machine-readable digital-code translation of the license in XML/RDF that helps search engines and other applications identify a work by its terms of use. Digital resources numbering in the millions are now being created and indexed on the web with Creative Commons licensing.

Creative Commons licenses are defined semantically in terms of sets of characteristics, including Permissions (rights granted by the license), Prohibitions (actions prohibited by the license), and Requirements (restrictions imposed by the license). Licenses are created by specifying combinations of these characteristics in relation to certain actions (reproduction, use in commercial contexts, providing source code, keeping copyright and license notices intact, production of derivative works, exercise of rights in high-income countries, share-alike redistribution, etc.).

The Open Digital Rights Language (ODRL) specification is a publicly available XML-based "standard language and vocabulary for the expression of terms and conditions over assets. It covers a core set of semantics for these purposes including the rights holders and the expression of permissible usages for asset manifestations. Rights can be specified for a specific asset manifestation (i.e., format) or could be applied to a range of manifestations of the asset. ODRL is focused on the semantics of expressing rights languages and definitions of elements in the data dictionary, and can be used within trusted or untrusted systems for both digital and physical assets."

The ODRL Creative Commons Profile Working Group was formed as one of several planned ODRL Profiles groups, chartered to develop an extension of the ODRL rights expression language to capture the semantics of Creative Commons licenses. The WG is defining the core CC license semantics in terms of the ODRL REL using an XML Schema, allowing for additional expressiveness around the CC semantics.

'Reproduction' in Creative Commons licensing "includes the right to copy the work, and to shift the work into another format as a verbatim copy. These features allow the typical private end-use rights, which ODRL makes more explicit in its Play, Display, Execute, and Print Permissions. The CC 'Distribution' also includes the right to distribute the work, to display or perform the work publicly, and to make digital public performances of the work (e.g., webcasting). Both Reproduction and Distribution are examples of new semantics that are captured in the ODRL/CC Profile."

The ODRL Creative Commons Profile draft contains three normative appendices. Appendix A "ODRL/CC Profile Data Dictionary" provides the Creative Commons Profile data dictionary definitions for Reproduction, Distribution, DerivativeWorks, Sharing, NonCommercialUse, NonHighIncomeNationUse, Notice, ShareAlike, SourceCode — representing the Permission, Constraint [CC: Prohibits characteristic], and Requirement types. Normative Appendix B "ODRL/CC Profile XML Schema" contains the Creative Commons Profile data dictionary XML Schema; Normative Appendix C "CC License Mapping" presents the the Creative Commons License definitions (by URI) and the corresponding XML elements required to express the license.

ODRL Profiles were first announced at the ODRL International Workshop in April in Vienna (2004) as a formal means of showing how to use ODRL in specific technical environments. Profile Working Groups have now been formed to create ODRL Profiles for Geospatial Data, for Dublin Core Metadata Initiative (DCMI) encoding, and for Creative Commons licenses.

Version 1.1 of ODRL was published in late 2002. An ODRL Version 2.0 Working Group has now produced several drafts of a Version 2 Requirements document. The broad goals for Version 2.0 are to keep ODRL simple, maintain backwards compatibility with ODRL Version 1.1, provide formal semantics for ODRL data model, support related metadata standards and vocabularies, to use of UML for the notation of the data model, and to revise the ODRL data dictionary. Enhancements to the ODRL data model include: improved downstream rights, support for transfer of rights for content that is aggregated/dis-aggregated, handling of status information for state-based rights constraints, contract negotiation, defining additional contract parties or third parties, fair use mechanisms, a "NOT" expression, dynamic time constraints, etc.

ODRL is recognized as an attractive technology for lightweight applications (e.g., mobile devices) requiring small computer memory footprints. ODRL is also being identified as the rights expression language technology of choice for use on the Web, as illustrated by the development of Dublin Core Metadata Initiative Profile, Creative Commons Profile, and Geospatial Profile. Unlike other DRM enforcement systems, the ODRL specification is neither controlled by an industry cartel nor tied to proprietary computing architectures; it also has no licensing requirements.

The Creative Commons model, like Open Source, is philosophically the opposite of typical DRM (Digital sic! Rights Management), since it's all about freedom, creativity, innovation, and information re-use. DRM (Hollywood style) is about getting sued, and getting jail time, for even trying to be creative. Open Source says "freely inspect, freely build, freely innovate, freely distribute, and give back to the community." DRM is fundamentally about enforcement and prohibition: "do not inspect (it's illegal even to try to inspect!), do not repurpose, do not copy or play more than the allowable amount, do not expect to be able to read/listen/play once your rights have expired, unless you send us more money." Creative Commons and the ODRL Profile for CC licenses, is about permissions granted, not about rights denied. The core philosophy is: "You do not need to ask for permission: permission has already been granted. You already have the license in your hand."

Bibliographic Information

  • ODRL Creative Commons Profile. ODRL Initiative Draft Specification. Edited by Renato Iannella. Produced by members of the ODRL Creative Commons Profile Working Group. 7-March-2005. Version URL: Latest version URL: Previous version URL: Copyright (c) ODRL Initiative 2004-2005. Appendices: Normative Appendix A: "ODRL/CC Profile Data Dictionary"; Normative Appendix B: "ODRL/CC Profile XML Schema" [Creative Commons Profile data dictionary XML Schema]; Normative Appendix C: CC License Mapping.

  • Open Digital Rights Language (ODRL) Version 2 Requirements. ODRL Initiative. Working Draft. February 13, 2005. Edited by Susanne Guth and Renato Iannella. See the references for papers on ODRL formal semantics. Discssion on the ODRL Version 2.0 Requirements is recorded in the list archive.

  • Open Digital Rights Language (ODRL). Version 1.1. Technical Specification. ODRL Initiative. Date: 2002-08-08. 70 pages. "The Open Digital Rights Language (ODRL) is a proposed language for the Digital Rights Management (DRM) community for the standardisation of expressing rights information over content. The ODRL is intended to provide flexible and interoperable mechanisms to support transparent and innovative use of digital resources in publishing, distributing and consuming of electronic publications, digital images, audio and movies, learning objects, computer software and other creations in digital form. The ODRL has been submitted to appropriate standards body for formal adoption and ratification. The ODRL has no license requirements and is available in the spirit of 'open source' software..."

ODRL Profiles

ODRL Profiles other than the ODRL Creative Commons Profile summarized above include profiles for Dublin Core Metadata and Geospatial:

DCMI Profile. In February 2005 the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative (DCMI) and Open Digital Rights Initiative (ODRL) announced the formation of a joint Working Group to develop a profile of ODRL/DCMI metadata usage. This profile "will show how to make combined use of the rights-related DCMI metadata terms and the ODRL rights expression language. This will enable richer rights management information to be captured along with DCMI descriptive metadata and support wider interoperability with digital rights management and open content licensing systems. The joint Working Group Chairs are Andy Powell (UKOLN, University of Bath) and Renato Iannella (ODRL Initiative)."

This decision to develop an ODRL/DCMI metadata usage profile follows the July 2004 communication from the Usage Board of the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative (DCMI) announcing approval of the rights-related terms "License" and "Rights Holder" in machine-readable metadata declarations. The DCMI term "rightsHolder" identifies a Rights Holder as a person or organization owning or managing rights over the resource. The DCMI Recommended best practice for this element is to use the URI or name of the Rights Holder to indicate the entity. This proposal for adding new DCMI rights terms articulates a goal of supporting standard practice concerning rights declarations on the Internet. The design especially recognized that "the recent emergence of the Creative Commons as a clearinghouse for rights declarations affords an opportunity to improve standard practice, particularly for resources that have been developed with the intention of cost-free distribution, but whose creators wish to formally declare various rights." The authors believe that both Creative Commons proponents and Dublin Core adopters "will benefit by having a clear approach to formal rights declaration in a widely adopted metadata framework on the Internet."

"DCMI and ODRL: A Discussion Paper." By Andy Powell (Distributed Systems, UKOLN, University of Bath, Bath, UK; WWW). Contribution posted to the mailing list of the ODRL/DCMI Profile Working Group. "This discussion paper considers some of the issues related to bringing together the use of DC metadata and ODRL. It takes a DCMI-centric view, since, of the two standards, DC is the one with which the author has most familiarity. It starts with a summary of the capabilities of DC metadata and then presents some potential use cases that describe how the combined use of DC and ODRL may benefit the end-user. Finally, it outlines some of the issues that the ODRL-DCMI working group will have to address... DCMI provides a growing set of metadata terms (elements, element refinements, encoding schemes and controlled vocabularies) and three encoding syntaxes (XHTML, XML and RDF) that allow those terms to be used in a wide variety of resource discovery applications. These are underpinned by the DCMI Abstract Model, which provides a description of the key entities that make up DC metadata records. A number of DCMIs terms are valid in the context of encoding rights-related information: Contributor, Creator, Publisher, Rights Management, Access Rights, Date Copyrighted, License, Provenance, Rights Holder... The encoding guidelines currently endorsed by the DCMI currently have different capabilities with respect to the DCMI Abstract Model, i.e., not all features of the model can be encoded in all the syntaxes. The RDF encoding can encode almost all aspects of the model and is therefore the richest. The XML and XHTML guidelines do not support all parts of the model. It is therefore the case that, currently, descriptions that can be encoded in one syntax may not be able to be encoded in the other syntaxes... With the exception of those cases where both DC metadata and ODRL are encoded using RDF/XML, it seems more sensible consider how to link together, rather than merge, DC metadata description and ODRL documents..."

Geospatial Data Profile. "Distributors of geospatial data, increasingly want to have more control over their data's movement and use, both for their own advantage and to protect the rights of third parties. The biggest concerns when dealing with geospatial data are privacy, information security, and property. Privacy and security rights are typically preserved by restricting access, use, and distribution to only those who are authorized to have access... In concert with the ODRL intention to provide flexible and interoperable mechanisms to support transparent and innovative use of digital resources, the Geospatial Working Group will be focused on these endeavors in the publication, distribution, and consumption of geospatial resources which may include aerial photographs, digital orthophoto quarter quads (DOQQ), digital elevation models (DEM), Census boundary layers and attribute data, Computer Aided Design (CAD) datasets and any other types of data in countless formats that are proprietary (e.g., shapefiles) or non-proprietary data..." [WG description]

About ODRL

The Open Digital Rights Language (ODRL) initiative was started in 2001 and is today an accepted technology in the field of rights expressions. ODRL has been formally approved by the Open Mobile Alliance (was the WAP Forum) as the Rights Language for mobile devices and has also been deployed in various projects (e.g., the COLIS project, and OpenIPMP) and prototype implementations. This ODRL International Workshop has the goal of bringing together people from research and industry to share experiences, and discuss the future develop the language to ensure its timeliness, usability, and future success." [from the 2004 Workshop description]

"A key feature of digitally managing rights will be the substantial increase in re-use of digital material on the Internet as well as the increased efficiency for physical material. The pervasive Internet is changing the nature of distribution of digital media from a passive one way flow (from Publisher to the End User) to a much more interactive cycle where creations are reused, combined and extended ad infinitum. At all stages, the rights need to be managed and honoured with trusted services. Current DRM technologies include languages for describing the terms and conditions, tracking asset usages by enforcing controlled environments or encoded asset manifestations, and closed architectures for the overall management of rights...

The Open Digital Rights Language (ODRL) provides the semantics for DRM expressions in open and trusted environments whilst being agnostic to mechanisms to achieve the secure architectures.

ODRL does not determine the capabilities nor requirements of any trusted services (e.g., for content protection, digital/physical delivery, and payment negotiation) that utilises its language. Clearly, however, ODRL will benefit transactions over digital assets as these can be captured and managed as a single rights transaction. In the physical world, ODRL expressions would need an accompanying system with the distribution of the physical asset...

ODRL defines a core set of semantics. Additional semantics can be layered on top of ODRL for third-party value added services with additional data dictionaries. ODRL does not enforce or mandate any policies for DRM, but provides the mechanisms to express such policies. Communities or organisations, that establish such policies based on ODRL, do so based on their specific business or public access requirements. ODRL depends on the use of unique identification of assets and parties. Common identification is a very difficult problem to have agreement across sectors and is why identification mechanisms and policies are outside the scope of ODRL . Sector-specific versions of ODRL may address the need to infer information about asset and party identifiers...

The ODRL model is based on an analysis and survey of sector specific requirements (including models and semantics), and as such, aims to be compatible with a broad community base. ODRL intends to meet the common requirements for many sectors and has been influenced by the ongoing work and specifications/models of the following groups:

  • The <indecs> Project
  • Electronic Book Exchange Working Group
  • International Federation of Library Associations
  • DOI Foundation
  • ONIX International
  • Moving Pictures Expert Group
  • IMS Global Learning Consortium
  • Dublin Core Metadata Initiative
  • Propagate Project
  • OpenEBook Forum
  • Publisher Requirements for Industry Standard Metadata
  • Association of American Publishers
  • Digital Imaging

ODRL proposes to be compatible with the above groups by defining an independent and extensible set of semantics. ODRL does not depend on any media types as it is aimed for crosssector interoperability..." [from the Version 1.1 spec]

About Creative Commons

The Creative Commons "is a non-profit corporation founded on the notion that some people may not want to exercise all of the intellectual property rights the law affords them. [According to the FAQ:] We believe there is an unmet demand for an easy yet reliable way to tell the world 'Some rights reserved' or even 'No rights reserved.' Many people have long since concluded that all-out copyright doesn't help them gain the exposure and widespread distribution they want. Many entrepreneurs and artists have come to prefer relying on innovative business models rather than full-fledged copyright to secure a return on their creative investment. Still others get fulfillment from contributing to and participating in an intellectual commons. For whatever reasons, it is clear that many citizens of the Internet want to share their work — and the power to reuse, modify, and distribute their work — with others on generous terms..."

The Creative Commons [is not] involved in digital rights management (DRM): we prefer to describe the technical aspect of our work as digital rights description. Whereas digital rights management tools try to prevent certain uses of copyright works and restrict your rights, we're trying to promote certain uses and grant you rights. Instead of having software say, 'No, you cannot modify this file,' we want it to say something more like 'The author will let you modify this file, but in return, give her credit.' While the tools are similar, our goals are different. Instead of using one of the many DRM formats, we've chosen to go with the W3C's RDF/XML format. Instead of saying 'We're not placing these restrictions,' we say 'We grant you these permissions,' so that search engines and other applications can easily find generously licensed works and sort them. A physical analogy may be helpful. It's DRM's job to put up signs that say 'No Trespassing.' It would seem silly to take those signs and change them to say 'Yes Trespassing,' which is what using a DRM format to express our licenses would be like. Instead, we're building new signs that say 'Welcome, Please Come In,' and that use different colors and designs to convey their different messages. We're leaving 'enforcement' to the law, social norms, and the good faith of the participants. Our tools act as informative aids, not instruments of control... [FAQ excerpt]

The parallel Science Commons Project has been created to "apply the philosophies and activities of Creative Commons in the realm of science." The mission of the new Science Commons is "to encourage scientific innovation by making it easier for scientists, universities, and industries to use literature, data, and other scientific intellectual property and to share their knowledge with others. Science Commons works within current copyright and patent law to promote legal and technical mechanisms that remove barriers to sharing." Creation of the Science Commons endeavor is based upon the recognition that the sciences critically "depend on access to and use of factual data. Powered by developments in electronic storage and computational capability, scientific inquiry is becoming more data-intensive in almost every discipline. Whether the field is meteorology, genomics, medicine, or high-energy physics, research depends on the availability of multiple databases, from multiple public and private sources, and their openness to easy recombination, search and processing." Creative Commons legal and technology tools are intended to combat the inflexibility of copyright, as well as the growing problems of protectionism based upon creeping legislation and court rulings that favor proprietary data lockup (patents).

Enlightened Editors: Scientific American

Beyond the Big ©. The Editors of Scientific American have taken note of the Creative Commons in the February 2005 issue of the journal (Volume 292, Number 2) in the "Scientific American Perspectives" column. The article is titled " Beyond the Big ©: Copyright Becomes 'No Right To Copy'." Excerpt:

"Over the years, however, Congress, sometimes at the behest of media companies, has erected immense barriers to derivative works by extending repeatedly both the length and the scope of copyright protection. A copyright holder no longer has to register a new work. Any blog, poet's sonnet or even a child's crayoned drawing now receives copyright automatically. Permission is needed for republishing or excerpting, with limited exemptions for fair use. Copyright in its current form fails to strike a balance between the extremes of allowing total control over every work — 'all rights reserved' — and an anarchic system in which pirates steal wantonly without recompense to owners. Overly strong property rights can threaten the Internet as a medium capable of fostering dynamic interchange of ideas...

In 2001 Stanford University legal scholar Lawrence Lessig set about righting this imbalance by becoming the leading force behind Creative Commons, a nonprofit group that furnishes a much needed middle ground that lets owners give up some but not all of their rights. An author still retains a copyright, but only some rights are reserved by choosing among the dozen or so free licenses, denoted by the Creative Commons's (cc) mark, that are available for downloading off the Web. One license permits others to use a work as long as attribution is given. Another gives the right to sample (take a snippet to mix with music or other content) as long as the entire work is not used.

Some five million Creative Commons licenses are in use. The BBC plans to license archival material to the British public without a fee as long as it is not used for commercial purposes. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology exploits the licenses to give free access to excellent online course materials. Creative Commons has started a Science Commons effort that will even explore the open licensing of technology contained in some patents. The Public Library of Science already takes advantage of one of the licenses to specify the conditions under which scientific journal articles are made available free of charge... [see other Creative Commons' affiliates]

The Internet, as a universal publisher of sorts, needs to be more than an outlet for commercial interests. Nascent communities of artists, scientists and nonprofits want some way to share and rework one another's intellectual output without the enormous legal burdens that come with increasingly draconian rights management. The entertainment industry has been largely silent on this issue — its idea of innovation having been the launching of lawsuits against 10-year-olds to punish music pirating. In this environment, the introduction of Creative Commons's middle path of 'some rights reserved' is surely a welcome arrival..." [copyright (c) Scientific American]

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