[whatwg] License metadata in HTML

Ian Hickson ian at hixie.ch
Mon Oct 29 18:18:08 PDT 2007

On Mon, 12 Sep 2005, Matthew Raymond wrote:
> Had a quick thought I'd like to share with you. Often times, content 
> from other sources might be inserted into a web page, or you may have 
> situations where you wish people to be able to copy part of the text 
> (such as a press release), but not all of it (such as the website UI and 
> graphics). You may also want (or are legally required) to list the 
> original holder of the copyright. There are also situations where 
> managing copyright information for content is difficult without 
> assistance from software.
> To resolve these problems [...]

Which problems? From the previous paragraph, I only see one problem, 
"situations where managing copyright information for content is difficult 
without assistance from software". But it's not clear to me what those 
situations are.

> I suggest the creation of two new attributes. The first is |copyright|, 
> which allows a copyright notice to be attached to an element. The 
> copyright is inherited by all descendants, unless a descendant element 
> has an assigned |copyright| itself, which overrides ancestor copyrights. 
> Thus, you can theoretically track any part of a document back to its 
> original copyright owner.
> The second attribute is |license|. It is inherited in the same way as 
> |copyright|, and provides a name and/or URL to the license for the 
> respective content. Editing software can potentially use the licensing 
> information to determine if certain content can be copied into content 
> under a different license.

For this to be useful, it would have to be reliable, and I highly doubt 
that people would reliably include this information -- but, worse, it 
seems like authors would be likely to end up misrepresenting copyright and 
license information, which is actually a worse situation than the current 
ambiguous state.

Also, it's unclear that we'd be able to come up with values for "license" 
than are unambiguous enough for software to be able to reliably determine 
what is legal and what isn't. Giving legal advice is a dodgy area, getting 
it wrong can land you in hot water.

> Well, just a thought. There may be better ways to do this already. Let 
> me know what you think.

I think we should let authors put copyrights in <footer> elements as 
freeform text, and let off-page licenses be linked to explicitly using 
rel=license, and not have any fine-grained control over what is 
copyrighted and what isn't, at least until we (as an industry) have far 
more experience with how to present license minutiae to authors.

On Tue, 13 Sep 2005, Daniel O'Connor wrote:
> XML gave us xmlns for a reason! Failing that..
> See:
> http://dublincore.org/
> http://creativecommons.org/
> http://www.w3.org/2005/Talks/05-steven-xtech/
> http://www.w3.org/TR/2005/WD-xhtml2-20050527/mod-meta.html
> http://hublog.hubmed.org/archives/001187.html
> ...
> There's far too many more widely accepted methods of inserting 
> metainfomation (in the microformat / RDF + GRDDL / style) into a (x)HTML 
> document without the need for a "copyright" attribute.

Some of those technologies might be useful here too, though I'm not sure 
any of them are really mature enough to handle copyrights and licenses.

On Wed, 14 Sep 2005, Anne van Kesteren wrote:
> Of the particular section. I suppose you could nest ADDRESS inside 
> BLOCKQUOTE and have the effect. Anyway, did you miss my point about the 
> information should be visible?

Having information visible -- or rather, having all data have an 
author-perceived effect by default -- is indeed a good way of ensuring 
that metadata remains accurate. I agree with your implication that 
copyright="" and license="" may not achieve this well.

On Wed, 14 Sep 2005, Matthew Raymond wrote:
> No, I did not. Often times, it's impractical to list the copyright and 
> trademark for every item, especially when you have a document that it 
> heavily composited. (Imagine documents where there's a copyright notice 
> every few lines. This is especially the case when quoting, where the 
> content is broken up so that you can reply to individual statements.) 

In practice, I haven't seen much need for markup of these kinds of 
documents to be explicit, though. People seem happy to just list 
copyrights in the footer or in comments in the markup.

On Mon, 12 Sep 2005, Ryan King wrote:
> > 
> > Attributes are not backwards compatible. (Well they are, just not for 
> > this.) License and copyright information should always be visible to 
> > the user.
> Exactly why rel-license (http://microformats.org/wiki/rel-license) was 
> invented.

Indeed, rel=license is in HTML5.

Ian Hickson               U+1047E                )\._.,--....,'``.    fL
http://ln.hixie.ch/       U+263A                /,   _.. \   _\  ;`._ ,.
Things that are impossible just take longer.   `._.-(,_..'--(,_..'`-.;.'

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