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The License Database vocabulary

Last update:
Kuno Woudt (frob.nl)
Other formats:
Turtle | JSON-LD


There are a few situations where it would be useful to have a machine-readable database of commonly used free culture and free software licenses. The initial goal is to make this data available for authoring and packaging software, to make it easier for users of such software to pick any license they want and have the appropriate notices automatically included when a copyrighted work is packaged for distribution.

The License Database vocabulary extends The Creative Commons Rights Expression Language (CC REL) with additional properties to describe existing copyright and database licenses in more detail.

The License Database project uses this vocabulary to describe existing free software licenses, open source licenses and free culture licenses used today.

Status of this document

This is an editor's draft without any formal standing. It is not endorsed by any organisation. Anything in this document is subject to change, the editors welcome feedback on this document. Please send any comments to [email protected] or contact "warp" on freenode irc.



A set of requests/permissions to users of a Work, e.g. a copyright license, database rights license, trademark license, patent grant, etc..


A set of notices used to apply a particular license to a work. Typically these notices disclaim warranty and state where the full license text can be found. (If the license text is very short this may contain the full license text).

Often the recommended (canonical) notices to use with a particular license are a template where an author is expected to fill in their details when using it to apply the license to a work -- this is implemented in the License Database using the Mustache template language. The keys which may be used by a license notice template are: {{year}}, {{rightsholder}}, {{description}} and {{title}}.

License Properties


The identifier assigned to the license by the LicenseDB project. (the intent is to follow the same naming scheme as defined in DEP5)


A short name assigned to the license. This should be a short name suitable for display in a dropdown menu of a simple license chooser or the copyright notice where there is limited room for such notices.

For example, "CC BY-SA 3.0 NL" is the li:name for a creative commons license which has "Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Netherlands" as dc:title.


A license is available as a plain text formatted resource. This is usually the preferred format to include in packaged software project.


This property states that a license is suitable for use in free software, open source software, free culture or open data according to a particular organization.


A License is compatible with a License.

Notice Properties


The text used to apply a license to a work.


A boolean, if true signifies that this particular notice is a short notice typically used in user interfaces where there is not enough room for a longer text. If false the notice is a slightly longer text typically used in software source code files and README files or anywhere else where there is sufficient room for a slightly longer text.


A boolean, if true signifies that this particular notice is a notice typically used to apply an "or-later" clause to a versioned license. If false the notice will not allow the licensee to upgrade to a newer version of the license (or there is only one license version).


A boolean, if true signifies that this particular notice is a canonical notice recommended by the publisher of the license (e.g. in the license text itself). This is also set as "true" for short (permissive) licenses where the notice is the full license.