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The free culture movement is growing. Hackers have created a completely free operating system called GNU/Linux that can be used and shared by anyone for any purpose. A community of volunteers has built the largest encyclopedia in history, Wikipedia, which is used by more people every day than CNN.com or AOL.com. Thousands of individuals have chosen to upload photos to Flickr.com under free licenses. But - just a minute. What exactly is a "free license"?
In the free software world, the two primary definitions - the Free Software Definition and the Open Source Definition - are both fairly clear about what uses must be allowed. Free software can be freely copied, modified, modified and copied, sold, taken apart and put back together. However, no similar standard exists in the sphere of free content and free expressions.
We believe that the highest standard of freedom should be sought for as many works as possible. And we seek to define this standard of freedom clearly. We call this definition the "Free Content and Expression Definition", and we call works which are covered by this definition "free content" or "free expressions".
Neither these names nor the text of the definition itself are final yet. In the spirit of free and open collaboration, we invite your feedback and changes. The definition is published in a wiki. You can find it at:
Please use the URL <http://freedomdefined.org/static/> (including the trailing slash) when submitting this link to high-traffic websites.
There is a stable and an unstable version of the definition. The stable version is protected, while the unstable one may be edited by anyone. Be bold and make changes to the unstable version, or make suggestions on the discussion page. Over time, we hope to reach a consensus. Four moderators will be assisting this process:
- Erik Möller - co-initiator of the definition. Free software developer, author and long time Wikimedian, where he initiated two projects: Wikinews and the Wikimedia Commons.
- Benjamin Mako Hill - co-initiator of the definition. Debian hacker and author of the Debian GNU/Linux 3.1 Bible, board member of Software in the Public Interest, Software Freedom International, and the Ubuntu Foundation.
- Mia Garlick. General Counsel at Creative Commons, and an expert on IP law. Creative Commons is, of course, the project which offers many easy-to-use licenses to authors and artists, some of which are free content licenses and some of which are not.
- Angela Beesley. One of the two elected trustees of the Wikimedia Foundation. Co-founder and Vice President of Wikia, Inc.
None of the moderators is acting here in an official capacity related to their affiliations. Please treat their comments as personal opinion unless otherwise noted. The Creative Commons project has welcomed the effort to clearly classify existing groups of licenses, and will work to supplement this definition with one which covers a larger class of licenses and works.
In addition to changes to the definition itself, we invite you to submit logos that can be attached to works or licenses which are free under this definition:
One note on the choice of name. Not all people will be happy to label their works "content", as it is also a term that is heavily used in commerce. This is why the initiators of the definition compromised on the name "Free Content and Expression Definition" for the definition itself. We are suggesting "Free Expression" as an alternative term that may lend itself particularly to usage in the context of artistic works. However, we remain open on discussing the issue of naming, and invite your feedback in this regard.
We encourage you to join the open editing phase, to take part in the logo contest, or to provide feedback. We aim to release a 1.0 version of this definition fairly soon.
Please forward this announcement to other relevant message boards and mailing lists.
Thanks for your time,
Erik Möller and Benjamin Mako Hill