Version 1.1 of the definition has been released. Please help updating it, contribute translations, and help us with the design of logos and buttons to identify free cultural works and licenses!


From Definition of Free Cultural Works
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Is there really a need for this? We already have so many licenses.

The Free Content and Expression Definition is not a license, it is a list of conditions under which a work must be available in order to be considered "free". In other words, it is a way to classify existing licenses. At the time the first draft of the definition was published (June 30, 2010), no such definition existed for free content (two definitions existed for free software).

So what do I need to put my work under this definition then?

As the definition is not a license, but only classifies which licenses can be considered free, you have to pick one of these licenses and apply them to your work (usually by attaching a text such as "This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution CC-BY-SA-3.0 license" with a link to the license text). If you want to express your support for free content, you can help us design logos and buttons.

What are the primary uses of this definition?

There are two primary goals:

  1. To bring unity and clarity to the growing free content and free expression movements. We believe that a successful social movement must first define its goals and its vision and then communicate these to others. The definition helps with the first part while logos and other awareness materials can help with the second. Finally, while this website is not a community site in the traditional sense, it may help to bring together people from different free content projects, and could lead to new web sites and organizations specifically targeted at the free content movement.
  2. To make communications with copyright holders more effective. Often, people state that their work is "free", "open content", or "open access", without qualifying this. The Creative Commons licenses are a good example of this: the Creative Commons logo simply states, generically, "Some Rights Reserved", and you have to click on the logo to find out which ones. It is very common for people to simply say that their work is "under a Creative Commons license". This can mean many things, including, in the extreme cases, licenses which restrict the use of a work to certain world regions, or which forbid both commercial use and derivative works. This definition allows you to simply ask: "Is it free content?". When the answer is "yes", you'll know precisely which rights you have even though some terms of these licenses are different.

Aren't you pretty arrogant for wanting to decide for everyone what's free?

We do not attempt to monopolize the definition of "free"; we just define what "free" means according to only (not to everyone), and we propose this definition as a "default meaning" in discussions to avoid ambiguity, ease communication and make discussions more productive.

To ensure that this is a reasonable and widely accepted definition, we are basing our work on the existing philosophies of free software and open source, on the existing policies of projects like Wikipedia, and on a strong moral conviction that as many works as reasonably possible should be available to all human beings, as freely as possible. People are welcome to release their works as something other than Free Content or Free Expression. In the short term, most people will. Many will try to use "semi-free" licenses.

Of course, we do not claim or seek a monopoly on the word "free". You are free (no pun intended) to use these terms as you wish, to argue for a different set of essential freedoms, or to attempt to redirect this definition by working with us. You are welcome to create your own term, defined differently, and use that.

Why don't you have any moderators who are professional (NAME PROFESSION)?

It may be that the right person hasn't volunteered yet. More importantly though, it's important to realize that we can't have a professional novelist, and a musician, and a lawyer, and a DJ, and a painter, and a collage artist, and a dancer, etc. There aren't that many spaces for moderators. Of course, we welcome feedback from every individual or group and are especially careful to take into account viewpoints that we think are unrepresented or new.

With that said, everyone involved in this project, and especially the moderators, produces, consumes, and distributes content or expression every day. While some of the freedoms listed here are freedoms designed primarily for the producers, we are also talking about the consumers of content and working hard to blur the lines between the two groups. We are all stakeholders in the process and we all -- creators, consumers, and most of us that are both -- have a voice that should be heard. The moderators have been picked not because they are particular representative of the world of creators as a group but because they respected, principled, in touch with much larger groups of creators, and willing to take into account others' opinions.

But how will people make money under this definition?

There are many ways that people make money distributing free content and expression. They tend to differ based on the type of work and many other factors. Of course, the point of this definition is not to list these (although someone could create a page in this wiki to do exactly that). The point is to describe essential freedom. Once we have challenged ourselves to produce and consume content and expression more ethically, it becomes our responsibility to find ways to do so that are economically sustainable. Unless we challenge ourselves, there is a much lower incentive to ever go out on a limb and try.

We also want to point out that the exact same question can be asked about the current copyright system. Most authors do not make a substantial amount of money from their works (many do not even make money at all). Some authors do manage to make money, but at the price of totally giving up control of their works to large publishers (especially in the USA, where total transfer of all rights by contract is possible and moral rights do not exist practically). Many artists of high value remained poor during much of their life, because their talent was recognized too late. Thus the question of how authors can make money from their work is not tied to the mere licensing model of the work (free vs. not free), but to the economic system surrounding authorship and to the social and cultural conditions of recognition.

What about logos? Why do all open source / free content-supportive organisations currently have copyrighted logos?

Many organisations like Creative Commons, the Open Source Initiative, or Wikimedia like to protect their identity using trademarks and copyrights. It should be noted that relatively few people in these organisations are opposed to copyright per se; in fact, the copyleft principle makes use of copyright to protect the freedom of works. The argument of these organisations is not one against copyright, but one for additional freedoms.

Nevertheless, a case can be made that logos and symbols should be freely shared, and that trademarks should be avoided -- taking the "right to fork" to an extreme. Under this model, the identity of the project is not protected by law, and anyone can try to assume the same identity by adopting it for a different project. The marketplace of ideas is the final arbiter of success. This is true for the free content logo we're trying to create, which will be in the public domain.

What about other kinds of commons, like grains, electromagnetic spectrum, genetic information? They need a "freedom" definition, too.

The Free Content Definition is about works of the human mind (and craft). This category is legally but also philosophically justified: creation of works - art works, free software works, free hardware design, machine design, whatever - is a well-defined philosophical concept. Various other kinds of commons (like material commons) do not belong to this category.

Since we are not proposing a Manifesto (which can be vague, broad, and very encompassing) but a Definition (which must be based on firm conceptual ground), trying to find a "one-size-fits-all" ethical message would destroy the meaning of the message and transform it into a meaningless slogan. But staying inside the boundaries of a clearly defined category of things helps us remain meaningful, and powerful.

We encourage other people to try and give a definition for "freedom of genetic information", "freedom of water resources", "freedom of electromagnetic spectrum", etc. But we cannot do it in the framework of this Definition, because the issues are very different and it would be sterile to try to explain them in the same terms as free contents.

Who wrote this? Who administers the site?


Why isn't a Non-Commercial restriction considered free?

See discussion on this wiki


Why isn't a NoDerivatives restriction considered free?

A NoDerivatives restriction in a license does not allow you the user to freely modify, remix, adapt, or build upon a work, thus restricting your fundamental freedom to that cultural expression. Truly free licenses will lack NoDerivatives clauses, which will allow you to crop photographs, remix audio, changes the names and settings in fictional text, or modify software for your specific needs as an end user.