Permissions & Obligations Expression Working Group Charter

The Web has provided the community with standardized mechanisms for numerous content-management services: publishing, distribution, consumption, describing, and sharing. However, the key area of permissions, obligations and licensing has not been addressed in Web standards to date. Content licenses, rights statements, permissions and obligations express the terms of usage for content. With a standard vocabulary, content owners can express terms and processing systems can determine what permissions and other terms are associated with a given resource or collection of resources.

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.

A permissions and obligations expression language is composed of detailed terms that are both machine-processable and expressible in a form for human-consumption. Allowable actions, constraints, and requirements are expressed at a level enabling complex and business-specific expressions to be created from a vocabulary with specific semantics. This accommodates a broad range of situations and addresses a different business/user need than systems such as Creative Commons that provide generic sharing licenses.

The mission of the Permissions & Obligations Expression Working Group is to define a semantic data model for expressing permissions and obligations statements for digital content, and to define the technical elements to make it deployable across browsers and content systems.

Join the Permissions & Obligations Expression Working Group.

End date 30 April 2018
Confidentiality Proceedings are public
Initial Chairs Ben Whittam Smith, Thomson Reuters
Renato Iannella, Monegraph
Initial Team Contacts
(FTE %: 20)
Ivan Herman
Usual Meeting Schedule Teleconferences: weekly
Face-to-face: twice annually


The semantic information model, vocabulary, and serializations will start from the ODRL specifications, developed by the W3C ODRL Community Group. The ODRL work began 15 years ago and has been evolving the specification to meet industry and community requirements with wide scale adoption. Over the past few years the group transformed into the W3C ODRL Community Group and has created five updated Version 2.1 specifications (an information model, vocabulary, XML encoding, JSON encoding, and ontology). The current ODRL specifications are deployed as profiles by business sectors, for example the IPTC has adopted ODRL for licensing online news articles.

The Permissions & Obligations Expression Working Group will take into account additional needs of the wider community including commercial and non-commercial publishers, consumers and re-users of human readable content and machine readable data. In addition, implementation feedback from related languages and initiatives will be considered in the final deliverables. For example, ODRS and PLUS photo licensing.

In order to address the needs of atomic rights and obligations expressions, this Working Group will produce deliverables that define an abstract information model that is then realized in a variety of mappings and serializations. This work will take the form of several specifications as Recommendation Track documents and supporting Notes.

Out of Scope

The Permissions & Obligations Expression Working Group will not be considering:


The titles of the deliverables are not final; the Working Group will have to decide on the final titles as well as the structures of the documents. The Working Group may also decide to merge some deliverables into one document or produce several documents that together constitute one of the deliverables.

The working group will further consider publishing a Note describing a P & O expression of Creative Commons licenses.


The Permissions & Obligations Expression Working Group will use the following W3C ODRL Community Group specifications as the starting position:

Other similar models, languages, and terms will also be considered by the Working Group based on an analysis of additional Use Cases and Requirements that the group will collect.

Security and Privacy Considerations

Each specification should contain a section detailing any known security and privacy implications for implementers, Web authors, and end users.

Success Criteria

To advance the encoding specifications to Proposed Recommendation, evidence will be gathered of independent implementations of permissions & obligations expression systems (at least two per mapping).

Milestones (Recommendation)

Milestones (Rec Track)
Note: The group will document significant changes from this initial schedule on the group home page.
Deliverable FPWD LCCR PR Rec
Permissions & Obligations Expression - Information Model May 2016 April 2017 October 2017 December 2017
Permissions & Obligations Expression - Vocabulary May 2016 April 2017 October 2017 December 2017
Permissions & Obligations Expression - XML Mapping May 2016 April 2017 October 2017 December 2017
Permissions & Obligations Expression - RDF/OWL Mapping May 2016 April 2017 October 2017 December 2017
Permissions & Obligations Expression - JSON Mapping May 2016 April 2017 October 2017 December 2017
Milestones (Notes)
Note: The group will document significant changes from this initial schedule on the group home page.
Deliverable FPWD WG Note
Permissions & Obligations Expression - Use Cases & Requirements May 2016 November 2016
Permissions & Obligations Expression - Formal Semantics May 2016 November 2017

Note: See changes from this initial schedule on the group home page.

Timeline View Summary

Dependencies and Liaisons

W3C Groups

Digital Publishing Interest Group
The Permissions & Obligations Expression work is highly relevant for the Publishing Community at large that this group represents within W3C
Data on the Web Best Practices and Spatial Data on the Web Working Groups.
Permissions and Obligations are highly relevant to the sharing of data on the Web.
Internationalization Activity
Licensing Statements must take account of multilingualism as well as jurisdictional differences.
Privacy Interest Group
Ensure that the privacy concerns are properly included in the WG's considerations.
Social Web WG, LDP Next CG and Web Payments IG.
Possible new use cases will be solicited from all three groups.
Semantic Web Interest Group and its Web Schemas Task Force.
Feedback on the vocabulary will be sought from the SWIG's Public Vocabs list.
Membership of the ODRL CG is wider than the WG and provides an important source of input and expertise.

Other Groups

Big Data Europe
The W3C staff contact for this project is supported by the Big Data Europe project which will benefit from the standardized methods of assessing permissions and obligations when combining multiple data sources.

Furthermore, the P&OE Working Group expects to follow these W3C Recommendations:


To be successful, the Permissions & Obligations Expression Working Group is expected to begin with 20 or more active participants and to sustain sufficient numbers to complete the multiple deliverables. To get the most out of this work, participants should expect to devote several hours a week; for budgeting purposes, we recommend at least half a day a week. For chairs and document editors the commitment will be higher, say, 1-2 days a week. Participants who follow the work less closely should be aware that if they miss decisions through inattention, further discussion of those issues may be ruled out of order. However, most participants follow some areas of discussion more closely than others, and the time needed to stay current therefore varies from week to week. The Working Group will also allocate the necessary resources for building Test Suites for each specification.


This group primarily conducts its work on the public mailing list. Administrative tasks may be conducted in Member-only communications. Comments on the group's work will be welcome via the public comment list.

Information about the group (deliverables, participants, face-to-face meetings, teleconferences, etc.) is available from the P&OE Working Group home page.

Decision Policy

As explained in the Process Document (section 3.3), this group will seek to make decisions when there is consensus. When the Chair puts a question and observes dissent, after due consideration of different opinions, the Chair should record a decision (possibly after a formal vote) and any objections, and move on.

A formal vote should allow for remote asynchronous participation—using, for example, email and/or web-based survey techniques. Any resolution taken in a face-to-face meeting or teleconference is to be considered provisional until 5 working days after the publication of the resolution in draft minutes sent to the group's mailing list.

This charter is written in accordance with Section 3.4, Votes of the W3C Process Document and includes no voting procedures beyond what the Process Document requires.


This Working Group will use the W3C Software and Document license for all its deliverables.

Patent Policy

This Working Group operates under the W3C Patent Policy (5 February 2004 Version). To promote the widest adoption of Web standards, W3C seeks to issue Recommendations that can be implemented, according to this policy, on a Royalty-Free basis.

For more information about disclosure obligations for this group, please see the W3C Patent Policy Implementation.

About this Charter

This charter for the Open Permissions and Obligations Expression Working Group has been created according to section 5.2.2 of the Process Document. In the event of a conflict between this document or the provisions of any charter and the W3C Process, the W3C Process shall take precedence.

Charter changes

Ivan Herman