[tdwg-content] dcterms:rights, dcterms:accessRights, and dcterms:license in Darwin Core

Steve Baskauf steve.baskauf at vanderbilt.edu
Thu Nov 7 19:04:45 CET 2013

In the context of developing the DwC RDF Guide and trying to maintain 
consistency with Audubon Core, I have written on the subject of various 
license-related terms [1].   In particular, I discuss the implications 
of various subproperty relationships that have been asserted for several 
common license-related terms, such as cc:license, xhv:license, and 

I should note that the issue that Bob brings up also applies to 
dcterms:license because dcterms:license is rdfs:subPropertyOf 
dcterms:rights. [2]  So suggesting a license URI as a value for 
dcterms:rights can't be "wrong" because a reasoner could infer that 
triple anyway based on the subproperty relationship.

An additional issue is the fact that the range of dcterms:license is 
dcterms:LicenseDocument, a non-literal class. [2]  So it would be best 
to NOT use that term with a string literal.  In the RDF Guide[3], we 
recommend using legacy dc: namespace terms (where they exist) with 
literal values [4] in cases where DCMI declares non-literal ranges for 
dcterms: namespace terms.  Unfortunately, there is no dc: namespace 
analogue for dcterms:license.  Because dcterms:license was not part of 
Darwin Core when the guide was written, there is no suggestion for a 
literal value analogue to dcterms:license in the guide itself.  But 
following the lead of Audubon Core, the ancillary document [1] suggests 
that the term xmpRights:UsageTerms could be used as a literal value 
alternative to dcterms:license.  I would be interested in hearing 
opinions about whether this suggestion is appropriate or not.  The 
ancillary document is informative and not part of any standard so it can 
easily be changed to reflect any consensus about what we consider to be 
a best practice.


[1] http://code.google.com/p/tdwg-rdf/wiki/LicenseProperties
[2] http://dublincore.org/documents/dcmi-terms/#terms-license
[3] http://code.google.com/p/tdwg-rdf/wiki/DwcRdfGuideProposal

John Wieczorek wrote:
> Dear all,
> Bob Morris recently submitted an issue [1] to the Darwin Core code
> site showing a potential ambiguity in the inclusion from Dublin Core
> of both dcterms:rights and dcterms:accessRights in the Simple Darwin
> Core schema [2]. The ambiguity arises from the fact that
> dcterms:accessRights is actually a subclass of dcterms:rights.
> Looking at the Darwin Core documentation about the use of these terms,
> I noticed that dcterms:rights [3] suggests a license
> ("http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/") as an example. I
> think this example is an inappropriate use for the term and instead is
> an example of a dcterms:license.
> I think it would be a good idea to add dcterms:license to the list of
> terms promoted by Darwin Core, especially after reading Peter Desmet's
> blog posts [4, 5]. If license was indeed the intent for including
> dcterms:rights in the first place, then perhaps it can be deprecated,
> leaving only its subtype dcterms:accessRights.
> Discussion welcome, so that I know whether to submit an issue for
> these changes to the Darwin Core.
> Thanks,
> John
> [1] https://code.google.com/p/darwincore/issues/detail?id=196
> [2] https://darwincore.googlecode.com/svn/trunk/xsd/tdwg_dwc_simple.xsd
> [3] http://rs.tdwg.org/dwc/terms/index.htm#dcterms:rights
> [4] http://peterdesmet.com/posts/illegal-bullfrogs.html
> [5] http://www.canadensys.net/2012/why-we-should-publish-our-data-under-cc0
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Steven J. Baskauf, Ph.D., Senior Lecturer
Vanderbilt University Dept. of Biological Sciences

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