This document defines "Free Cultural Works" as works or expressions which can be freely studied, applied, copied and/or modified, by anyone, for any purpose. It also describes certain permissible restrictions that respect or protect these essential freedoms. The definition distinguishes between free works, and free licenses which can be used to legally protect the status of a free work. The definition itself is not a license; it is a tool to determine whether a work or license should be considered "free."
Social and technological advances make it possible for a growing part of humanity to access, create, modify, publish and distribute various kinds of works - artworks, scientific and educational materials, software, articles - in short: anything that can be represented in digital form. Many communities have formed to exercise those new possibilities and create a wealth of collectively re-usable works.
Most authors, whatever their field of activity, whatever their amateur or professional status, have a genuine interest in favoring an ecosystem where works can be spread, re-used and derived in creative ways. The easier it is to re-use and derive works, the richer our cultures become.
To ensure the graceful functioning of this ecosystem, works of authorship should be free, and by freedom we mean:
These freedoms should be available to anyone, anywhere, anytime. They should not be restricted by the context in which the work is used. Creativity is the act of using an existing resource in a way that had not been envisioned before.
In most countries however, these freedoms are not enforced but suppressed by the laws commonly named copyright laws. They consider authors as god-like creators and give them an exclusive monopoly as to how "their content" can be re-used. This monopoly impedes the flourishing of culture, and it does not even help the economic situation of authors so much as it protects the business model of the most powerful publishing companies.
In spite of those laws, authors can make their works free by choosing among a vast array of legal documents known as free licenses. For an author, choosing to put his work under a free license does not mean that he loses all his rights, but it gives to anyone the freedoms listed above.
It is important that any work that claims to be free provides, practically and without any risk, the aforementioned freedoms. This is why we hereafter give a precise definition of freedom for licenses and for works of authorship.
Identifying Free Cultural Works
This is the Definition of Free Cultural Works, and when describing your work, we encourage you to make reference to this definition, as in, "This is a freely licensed work, as explained in the Definition of Free Cultural Works." If you do not like the term "Free Cultural Work," you can use the generic term "Free Content," or refer instead to one of the existing movements that express similar freedoms in more specific contexts. We also encourage you to use the Free Cultural Works logos and buttons, which are in the public domain.
Please be advised that such identification does not actually confer the rights described in this definition; for your work to be truly free, it must use one of the Free Culture Licenses or be in the public domain.
We discourage you to use other terms to identify Free Cultural Works which do not convey a clear definition of freedom, such as "Open Content" and "Open Access." These terms are often used to refer to content which is available under "less restrictive" terms than those of existing copyright laws, or even for works that are just "available on the Web".
Defining Free Culture Licenses
Licenses are legal instruments through which the owner of certain legal rights may transfer these rights to third parties. Free Culture Licenses do not take any rights away -- they are always optional to accept, and if accepted, they grant freedoms which copyright law alone does not provide. When accepted, they never limit or reduce existing exemptions in copyright laws.
In order to be recognized as "free" under this definition, a license must grant the following freedoms without limitation:
Not all restrictions on the use or distribution of works impede essential freedoms. In particular, requirements for attribution, for symmetric collaboration (i.e., "copyleft"), and for the protection of protection of essential freedom are considered permissible restrictions.
Defining Free Cultural Works
In order to be considered free, a work must be covered by a Free Culture License, or its legal status must provide the same essential freedoms enumerated above. It is not, however, a sufficient condition. Indeed, a specific work may be non-free in other ways that restrict the essential freedoms. These are the additional conditions in order for a work to be considered free:
In other words, whenever the user of a work cannot legally or practically exercise his or her basic freedoms, the work cannot be considered and should not be called "free."
New versions of this definition shall be released as soon as a consensus (achieved directly or through a vote, as per the authoring process) has developed around suggested changes. Numbering shall be 0.x for initial draft releases, 1.x, 2.x .. for major releases, x.1, x.2 .. for minor releases. A minor release is made when the text is modified in ways which do not have an impact on the scope of existing or hypothetical licenses covered by this definition.