Open Knowledge Definition

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This refers to the version of 2007. For the current version please see Open Definition

= a set of simple principles that make it clear what we mean when we say a ‘work’ (be it a dataset of a sonnet) is ‘open’.



Proposed by the Open Knowledge Foundation

Version 1.0 [1]:

"A work is open if its manner of distribution satisfies the following conditions:

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. Reuse

The license must allow for modifications and derivative works and must allow them to be distributed under the terms of the original work. The license may impose some form of attribution and integrity requirements: see principle 5 (Attribution) and principle 6 (Integrity) below.

4. 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 whose specification is publicly and freely available and which places no restrictions monetary or otherwise upon its use.

5. 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 if attribution is required a list of those requiring attribution should accompany the work.

6. 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.

7. No Discrimination Against Persons or Groups

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

8. 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 military research.

9. Distribution of License

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

10. License Must Not Be Specific to a Package

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.

11. 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." (

Background: Concepts

"The term 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.

The term work will be used to denote the item of knowledge at issue.

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 term license refers to the legal license under which the work is made available. Where no license has been made this should be interpreted as referring to the resulting default legal conditions under which the work is available." (


The Open Definition and the Creative Commons

Rufus Pollock [2]:

"1. The Open Knowledge/Data definition is (like it says) a definition. It is not a license. In this respect it resembles the open source definition (on which it is modelled).

2. Its aim is to lay out a set of simple principles that make it clear what we mean when we say a ‘work’ (be it a dataset of a sonnet) is ‘open’. Informally this involves providing freedom of access, reuse and redistribution to the work (or rather providing freedom of access under a license that permits these things). The full set of principles can be found in the definition.

3. Like the open source definition it has a list of ‘conformant/compatible’ licenses. These may be found at:

4. This is unlike Creative Commons whose explicit aim is to provide licenses. While all of the CC licenses are more ‘liberal’ (or ‘open’ even) than traditional copyright not all of the licenses are ‘open’ in the sense of the Definition.

5. This is not surprising — CC is about providing license choice and flexibility, not about providing a consistent set of licenses embodying a particular approach. In particular it is not the case that a particular CC license is ‘compatible’ with a given other CC license in the sense that one can intermix material made available under the different licenses. For example, any CC non-commercial license is incompatible with the CC Attribution-ShareAlike (by-sa) license.

6. By contrast one would hope and expect that any license which is conformant with the Open Knowledge/Data Definition would be compatible with any other such license — in the sense that one could freely combine two separate works made available under (different) open licenses together. This is important as one of the major benefits of an openness is to permit freedom of sharing and reuse in the open knowledge ‘commons’. Again this is very similar to the situation with the Open Source Definition.

7. Thus, in my opinion, the Definition is not a rival to Creative Commons but a complement which seeks to do something different. In particular the Definition does not develop licenses but CC does (many of which are conformant with the Definition). CC does not attempt to define a ’standard’ but the Definition clearly does. By linking to a CC license you are saying: my stuff is available under this specific license. When you link to the Open Definition you are saying: my stuff meets this general standard." (