This document provides a definition of "Free Cultural Works" [the Definition], which are roughly works or expressions that can be freely studied, applied, copied and modified, by anyone and for any purpose. 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." This document also describes restrictions that respect or protect the freedoms of Free Cultural Works.
Free Culture Licenses
It is important that any work that claims to be free provides, practically and without any risk, the aforementioned freedoms.
All new works are automatically covered by existing copyright laws which default to All Rights Reserved. All Rights Reserved considerably limit what others can and cannot do with the work. Authors can make their works free by choosing among a number of legal documents known as licenses which grant users the 4 freedoms listed above.
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 rights away — they specify freedoms that are not included in a default copyright license such as All Rights Reserved. When accepted, they never limit or reduce existing user rights and exemptions under copyright law. Because the grant rights which are additional to the rights users have under copyright therefore users are not required to accept the license unless they want to exercise those additional rights.
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 actually free, it must use one of the Free Culture Licenses or be in the public domain, or equivalent of.
Please don't use other terms to identify Cultural Works; terms which do not convey a clear definition of freedom; terms such as "Open Content" and "Open Access." These terms are often used to refer to content which is available under "less restrictive" terms than All Rights Reserved, or for works that are just "available on the Web", but they don't necessarily carry with them the freedoms referred to in this document.
Availability of legal instruments
Can in anyone can use, study, copy, change and improve (summary) means anyone can realistically make his case in court that such freedom was granted. It implies that where a work is made free by way of a free cultural license, the legal instrument, by which the copyright or other right owner grants the license, must also be available to anyone in the legal form that is legally binding in the relevant legal context. The legal instrument should not be jealously and secretly kept by the first licensee.
- See Licenses for discussion of individual licenses, and whether they meet this definition or not.
- See History for acknowledgments and background on this definition.
- See the FAQ for some questions and answers.
- See Portal:Index for topic-specific pages about free cultural works.
- See Libre Communities and Wikipedia on Free/Libre Knowledge
- See The Four Kinds of Freedom of Free Knowledge