We’re only about half a year away from seeing the first beta version of the BDE platform, and I can’t wait to see what it can do. Taking data from multiple sources in any number of formats; static files, streams, large datasets, lots and lots of little datasets – it’s a tough challenge. Just how useful this really is will be tested and proven through a series of pilots that we’re working on already. They’ll be showing how BDE can make it easier to do things that are currently hard as well as one or two things that are so hard right now as to be unrealistic to attempt.
But there’s an issue that comes up again and again that needs our attention: rights, licences, permissions and obligations. Of course we love to talk about open data, that is, data that is made available for users to do whatever they want with it, including making money. But not all data is open, nor should it be. In the societal challenges that BDE is supporting, it’s obvious that a lot of health data needs to be confidential. The same is true for the social sciences and, of course, security. Between those two there is a wide spectrum of possibilities. Creative Commons offers a set of off the shelf licences that are extremely useful for many situations and are, rightly, used very widely. Good. But what about situations not covered by CC?
Data may have associated historical rights, or database rights, or any number of possibilities and, if BDE is to combine arbitrarily large datasets from arbitrarily disparate sources, and if it is to be useful in handling data that is not open, it needs to be able to process any permissions and obligations that are associated with that data.
That’s why W3C, a partner in BDE of course, is asking its membership to support the formation of a new Permissions and Obligations Expression Working Group. Quoting from the draft charter:
A permissions and obligations expression system should provide a flexible and interoperable information model that supports transparent and innovative (re)use of digital content across all sectors and communities. The underlying model should support the business models of open, educational, government, and commercial communities through profiles that align with their specific requirements whilst retaining a common semantic layer for wider interoperability. The system should not, however, be the basis of legal compliance or enforcement mechanisms.
That last sentence is important. The Working Group will not create something that can be the basis of any legal enforcement and, for clarity, a number of possible interpretations of the work are explicitly ruled out of scope.
The Working Group is set to handle use cases from the publishing world where multiple assets (data, images, video and texts) may be combined into a single article as well as the data-centric use cases of the societal challenges that are the focus of BDE. Whether the Working Group is formed or not is now in the hands of the W3C Membership but if approved, it should start work in February (March at the latest) and will start by reviewing the extensive work already done by the W3C ODRL Community Group For more information, please contact Trackback from your site.