We’re pleased to announce a simple new service from the Open Knowledge Foundation as part of the Open Definition Project: the (Open) Licenses Service.

open licensing

The service is ultra simple in purpose and function. It provides:

  • Information on licenses for open data, open content, and open-source software in machine readable form (JSON)
  • A simple web API that allows you retrieve this information over the web — including using javascript in a browser via JSONP

In addition to the service there’s also:

What’s Included

There’s data on more than 100 open (and a few closed) licenses including all OSI-approved open source licenses and all Open Definition conformant open data and content licenses. Also included are a few closed licenses as well as ‘generics’ — licensed representing a category (useful where a user does not know the exact license but knows, for example, that the material only requires attribution).

View all the licenses available »

In addition various generic groups are provided that are useful when constructing license choice lists, including non-commercial options, generic Public Domain and more. Pre-packaged groups include:

The source for all this material is a git licenses repo on github. Not only does it provide another way to get the data, but also means that if you spot an error, or have a suggestion for an improvement, you can file an issue on the Github repo or fork, patch and submit a pull request.

Why this Service?

The first reason is the most obvious: having a place to record license data in a machine readable way, especially for open licenses (i.e. for content and data those conforming to the Open Defnition and for Software the Open Source Definition).

The second reason is to make it easier for other people to include license info into their own apps and services. Literally daily, new sites and services are being created that allow users to share or create content and data. But when they do that, if there’s any intention for that data to get used and reused by others it’s essential that the material get licensed — and preferably, openly licensed.

By providing license data in a simple machine-usable, web friendly format we hope to make it easier for people to integrate license choosers — and good license defaults — into their sites. This will provide not only greater clarify, but also, more open content and data — remember, no license usually means defaulting to the most restrictive, all rights reserved, condition.

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Rufus Pollock is Founder and President of Open Knowledge.

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