Open Definition v2.0 Released – Major Update of Essential Standard for Open Data and Open Content

Today Open Knowledge and the Open Definition Advisory Council are pleased to announce the release of version 2.0 of the Open Definition. The Definition “sets out principles that define openness in relation to data and content” and plays a key role in supporting the growing open data ecosystem.

Recent years have seen an explosion in the release of open data by dozens of governments including the G8. Recent estimates by McKinsey put the potential benefits of open data at over $1 trillion and others estimates put benefits at more than 1% of global GDP.

However, these benefits are at significant risk both from quality problems such as “open-washing” (non-open data being passed off as open) and from fragmentation of the open data ecosystem due to incompatibility between the growing number of “open” licenses.

The Open Definition eliminates these risks and ensures we realize the full benefits of open by guaranteeing quality and preventing incompatibility.See this recent post for more about why the Open Definition is so important.

The Open Definition was published in 2005 by Open Knowledge and is maintained today by an expert Advisory Council. This new version of the Open Definition is the most significant revision in the Definition’s nearly ten-year history.

It reflects more than a year of discussion and consultation with the community including input from experts involved in open data, open access, open culture, open education, open government, and open source. Whilst there are no changes to the core principles, the Definition has been completely reworked with a new structure and new text as well as a new process for reviewing licenses (which has been trialled with governments including the UK).

Herb Lainchbury, Chair of the Open Definition Advisory Council, said:

“The Open Definition describes the principles that define “openness” in relation to data and content, and is used to assess whether a particular licence meets that standard. A key goal of this new version is to make it easier to assess whether the growing number of open licenses actually make the grade. The more we can increase everyone’s confidence in their use of open works, the more they will be able to focus on creating value with open works.”

Rufus Pollock, President and Founder of Open Knowledge said:

“Since we created the Open Definition in 2005 it has played a key role in the growing open data and open content communities. It acts as the “gold standard” for open data and content guaranteeing quality and preventing incompatibility. As a standard, the Open Definition plays a key role in underpinning the “open knowledge economy” with a potential value that runs into the hundreds of billions – or even trillions – worldwide.”

What’s New

In process for more than a year, the new version was collaboratively and openly developed with input from experts involved in open access, open culture, open data, open education, open government, open source and wiki communities. The new version of the definition:

  • Has a complete rewrite of the core principles – preserving their meaning but using simpler language and clarifying key aspects.
  • Introduces a clear separation of the definition of an open license from an open work (with the latter depending on the former). This not only simplifies the conceptual structure but provides a proper definition of open license and makes it easier to “self-assess” licenses for conformance with the Open Definition.
  • The definition of an Open Work within the Open Definition is now a set of three key principles:
    • Open License: The work must be available under an open license (as defined in the following section but this includes freedom to use, build on, modify and share).
    • Access: The work shall be available as a whole and at no more than a reasonable one-time reproduction cost, preferably downloadable via the Internet without charge
    • Open Format: The work must be provided in a convenient and modifiable form such that there are no unnecessary technological obstacles to the performance of the licensed rights. Specifically, data should be machine-readable, available in bulk, and provided in an open format or, at the very least, can be processed with at least one free/libre/open-source software tool.
  • Includes improved license approval process to make it easier for license creators to check conformance of their license with the Open Definition and to encourage reuse of existing open licenses

More Information

  • For more information about the Open Definition including the updated version visit:
  • For background on why the Open Definition matters, read the recent article ‘Why the Open Definition Matters’


This post was written by Herb Lainchbury, Chair of the Open Definition Advisory Council and Rufus Pollock, President and Founder of Open Knowledge

7 thoughts on “Open Definition v2.0 Released – Major Update of Essential Standard for Open Data and Open Content”

  1. What’s the difference between “permit” and “allow” in 2.1?

    Also…does “as a whole” in 1.2 duplicate “in bulk” in 1.3?

    Lastly, is there a link to version 1.0 anywhere, perhaps with a diff?

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