Having been working on the very similar Open Knowledge Defintion since Summer 2005 (with a v1.0 released in September last year) we were very interested when http://freedomdefined.org/ launched last May. Now after ten months of work they’ve released a stable, 1.0, version of what is now termed the “Free Cultural Works Definition”.

Though having a different form and layout, the principles enshrined in the FCWD and the Open Knowledge Defintion are almost entirely identical (so identical that we’ve been exploring with them for a while how the two could merge). This similarity is very encouraging given the importance of staking out such a clear (shared) meaning for what it means for a piece of knowledge to be free/open. As stated in the introduction to the Open Knowledge Definition:

The concept of openness has already started to spread rapidly beyond its original roots in academia and software. We already have ‘open access’ journals, open genetics, open geodata, open content etc. As the concept spreads so we are seeing a proliferation of licenses and a potential blurring of what is open and what is not.

In such circumstances it is important to preserve compatibility, guard against dilution of the concept, and provide a common thread to this multitude of activities across a variety of disciplines. The definition, by providing clear set of criteria for openness, is an essential tool in achieving these ends.

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Rufus Pollock is Founder and President of Open Knowledge.