Free Cultural Works are works which anyone can
- Change and Improve
Copyleft licenses are Free Cultural licenses which in addition to the 4 freedoms listed above also include certain restrictions designed to require that copies or improved versions are also Free Culture Works. These can include:
- Attribution - acknowledge other contributors
- Sharealike - derived works should be licensed under copyleft licenses
- Availability of Source data - all the information needed to make a copy or an improved version.
Since Science has been based on an explicit philosophy of sharing information, with any scientist free to repeat any experiment, we have seen an unprecedented explosion of scientific knowledge.
At different time over the years Copyright and Patent legislation has been introduced as a way of restricting and taxing that free flow of information - as a way of rewarding particularily innovative new contributions or favoured supporters of the government of the time.
In recent years social and technological advances make it possible for a growing part of humanity to share cultural works that can be represented in digital form with other people they have never met in person. These works include artworks, scientific and educational materials, software, and articles. Many communities have formed to exercise these new possibilities and create a wealth of collectively reusable works. As these collaboratively produced works grow in commercial value there ever greater pressure to monetise these works, to erect toll gates so that the community who collaborated to create these works can be charged to access them.
Free Culture licenses and Copyleft licenses are designed to give uses additional freedoms, denied them by copyright, so that users can collaborate and work together to create and improve Free Culture Works and to define to what extent and under what circumstances access to these can be restricted.
Free Cultural Works
Free Cultural Works are free as in freedom, where by freedom we mean:
- The freedom to use and perform the work to make any use, private or public, of the work. For kinds of works where it is relevant, this freedom should include all derived uses ("related rights") such as performing or interpreting the work. There must be no exception regarding, for example, political or religious considerations.
- The freedom to study the work and apply the information to examine the work and to use the knowledge gained from the work in any way. The license may not, for example, restrict "reverse engineering".
- The freedom to redistribute copies whether they are sold, swapped or given away for free, as part of a larger work, a collection, or independently. There must be no limit on the amount of information that can be copied. Neither may there be a limit on who can copy the information or on where the information can be copied. The license may not, for example, restrict "Commercial' exploitation of the work.
- The freedom to distribute derivative worksincluding modified versions (or, for physical works, a work somehow derived from the original), regardless of the intent and purpose of such modifications. However, some restrictions may be applied to protect these essential freedoms or the attribution of authors (see below).
These freedoms should be available
- to anyone;
- anywhere, i.e. worldwide;
- anytime, i.e. unlimited and irrevocable.
They should not be restricted by the context in which the work is used.
If authors do not specify this freedom, their works are 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 of others. Authors can make their works free by choosing among a number of legal documents known as licenses. For an author, choosing to put their work under a free license does not mean that they lose all their 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
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 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.
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 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 exemptions in copyright laws.
In order to be recognized as "free" under this definition, a license must grant the following essential freedoms:
- The freedom to use and perform the work: The licensee must be allowed to make any use, private or public, of the work. For kinds of works where it is relevant, this freedom should include all derived uses ("related rights") such as performing or interpreting the work. There must be no exception regarding, for example, political or religious considerations.
- The freedom to study the work and apply the information: The licensee must be allowed to examine the work and to use the knowledge gained from the work in any way. The license may not, for example, restrict "reverse engineering".
- The freedom to redistribute copies: Copies may be sold, swapped or given away for free, as part of a larger work, a collection, or independently. There must be no limit on the amount of information that can be copied. Neither may there be a limit on who can copy the information or on where the information can be copied.
- The freedom to distribute derivative works: In order to give everyone the ability to improve upon a work, the license must not limit the freedom to distribute a modified version (or, for physical works, a work somehow derived from the original), regardless of the intent and purpose of such modifications. However, some restrictions may be applied to protect these essential freedoms or the attribution of authors (see below).
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 essential freedom are considered permissible restrictions.
Defining Free Cultural Works
In order to be considered free, a work's 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:
- Availability of source data: Where a final work has been obtained through the compilation or processing of a source file or multiple source files, all underlying source data should be available alongside the work itself under the same conditions. This can be the score of a musical composition, the models used in a 3D scene, the data of a scientific publication, the source code of a computer application, or any other such information.
- Use of a free format: For digital files, the format in which the work is made available should not be protected by patents, unless a world-wide, unlimited and irrevocable royalty-free grant is given to make use of the patented technology. While non-free formats may sometimes be used for practical reasons, a free format copy must be available for the work to be considered free.
- No technical restrictions: The work must be available in a form where no technical measures are used to limit the freedoms enumerated above.
- No other restrictions or limitations: The work itself must not be covered by legal restrictions (patents, contracts, etc.) or limitations (such as privacy rights or being for non-commercial use only) which would impede the freedoms enumerated above. A work may make use of existing legal exemptions to copyright (in order to cite copyrighted works), though only the portions of it which are unambiguously free constitute a free work.
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." Works that either have no copyright (thus being in the public domain), or are licensed under a Free Culture License comply with these guidelines.
- 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