Licence information in and LRMI

When the Learning Resource Metadata Initiative (LRMI) technical working group started its work it focused on identifying the properties and relationships that were important for educational resources but could not be adequately expressed using as it then stood. One of those important pieces of information was the licence under which a resource was released, and so the LRMI spec from the start had the property useRightsUrl  “The URL where the owner specifies permissions for using the resource.” When adopted most of the LRMI properties, useRightsUrl was an exception, it was not adopted pending further consideration–not surprising really given the wide-ranging applicability of licence information beyond learning resources.

Back in June the good news came that with version 1.6 of included a license property for Creative Works that does all that LRMI wanted, and more.

What does this mean for LRMI adopters?

Some adopters of LRMI have already started using useRightsUrl.  Such implementations are valid LRMI but not valid, which means that they will only be understood by applications that have been written specifically to understand LRMI and not by the general purpose web-scale search applications. This is sub-optimal.

In passing, let me mention another complication. With you have a choice of syntax: microdata and RDFa 1.1 lite. With RDFa there was already a mechanism for identifying a link to a licence, that is rel=”license”.  Just to complicate a little more, RDFa allows name spacing, and the term license appears in at least three widely used namespaces: HTML5, Dublin Core Terms, and the Creative Commons Rights Expression Language–hopefully this will never matter to you.  To exemplify one of these options I’ll use the HTML that you get when you use the Creative Commons License Chooser (but let’s be absolutely clear, what I am writing about applies to any type of license whether the terms be open or commercial):

<a rel="license" href="">

The good news is that all these options play nicely together, you can have the best of all worlds.

If you are already using itemprop=”useRightsUrl” to identify the link to a licence using LRMI in microdata, you can also use the license property and rel=”license”. The following  LRMI microdata with a bit RDFa thrown in works:

  <body itemscope itemtype="">
    <a itemprop="license useRightsUrl" rel="license"
        Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) licence

If you are using LRMI / in RDFa, then the following is valid

  <body vocab="" typeof="CreativeWork">
    <a rel="license useRightsUrl"
       Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) licence

License does what LRMI asked for and more

In my opinion the license property is superior to the LRMI useRightsUrl for a few reasons. It does everything that LRMI wanted by way of identifying the URL of the licence under which the creative work is released, but also:

  • It belongs to a more widely recognised namespace, especially important if you are wanting to generate RDF data
  • I prefer the semantics of the name and definition: a license can include  restrictions of use as well as grant rights and permissions.
  • the range, i.e. the type of value that can be provided, includes Creative Works as well as Urls

That last points allows one to encode the name, url, description, date, accountable person and a whole host of other information about the licence (albeit at the cost of the not being able to do so alongside LRMI’s useRightsUrl quite so simply)


The inclusion in of the license property is good news for aims for LRMI. If you use LRMI and care about licensing you should tag the information you provide about the license with it. If you already use LRMI’s useRightsUrl or RDFa’s rel=”license” there is no need to stop doing so.


You are free to adapt the What is briefing

Editable files for the What is briefing are now available from the Cetis Publications site. The process of enabling editable copies of this publication has leads me to some reflections on the publishing workflow behind it.

We published What is a Cetis briefing paper for LRMI in June, as with most of Cetis’s publications it is covered by a CC Attribution licence so, according to the terms of that  licence

You are free to:
Share — copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format
Adapt — remix, transform, and build upon the material

Who is using LRMI metadata?


One question that we always get asked about LRMI is “who is using it?” There are two sides to this, use by search service providers and use by resource providers, this post touches on the latter.

In phase 2 of the LRMI project, various organizations were given small amounts of money to implement LRMI in their systems and workflows. Those organizations are listed on the Creative Commons web site, and Lorna is in the process of gathering together the lessons they learnt which will be reported back shortly. Perhaps more importantly, at least from the point of view of sustainability, are implementations that arise spontaneously, either by organizations with learning resources to disseminate who make a conscious decision to use LRMI, or those who in using markup find that one of the properties that LRMI added is appropriate.  Of course no one doing this is under any obligation to inform us of what they are doing, so it is harder to keep track of such use. Fortunately the Google Custom Search Engine Wilbert and I cobbled together  can be used to discover such implementations. It’s a bit hit-and-miss, you need to search for common topics (Math, English) and trawl through the results for new sites,  but it’s better than nothing.

Announcing “What is”, a new technical briefing paper from Cetis

As part of my work with Cetis  for Creative Commons on managing the Learning Resource Metadata Initiative (LRMI), Cetis today publish a new technical briefing paper “What is”.  LRMI is built on and expands so that it can be used to describe educationally significant characteristics of resources. I often find when explaining LRMI at a technical level, mostly I am explaining, hence this briefing as the first of a series coauthored by me and Lorna M Campbell, planned to explain LRMI.