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From Definition of Free Cultural Works
Revision as of 06:19, 29 February 2008 by GregLondon (talk | contribs) (An Objective Definition of Free?)
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Under "Permissible Restrictions": "... for the protection of protection of ...". This typo should not exist in a stable version. --Mrnorwood 18:48, 14 February 2007 (CET)

Thanks,fixed.--Erik Möller 19:21, 14 February 2007 (CET)

What about the applicable law?

If a license has a clause about the applicable law, is the license free? In my opinion, this clause is a problem because only the people that know a certain law can understand license's implied sides.

I think CC are working on licenses covered by Berne/WIPO law only. But a license needs a jurisdiction to avoid confusion or argument over terms and meaning, so in this case having a jurisdiction may protect freedom. --Rob Myers 20:06, 14 June 2006 (CEST)

Link title== First Thoughts ==

I had some issues with the definition of free content here. Firstly, the document attempts to define "free content" as so many have done in the past, yet there is no clear definition of what is and isn't free content in the "free content movement" you discuss. It concerns me that a definition is being created in isolation from the wider community without proper discussion.

I see the definition here models itself on the free software definition, but misses several important and fundamental aspects:

How does the definition handle digital works (such as images, documents, etc) versus non-digitual works (such as hard-copy books, paintings, sculptures, etc)?

How should digital works be treated? A digital work, such as a wordprocessor document, can be viewed in two ways: firstly, as a work in and of itself, i.e. content, but also as a piece of software itself that can display a final work. Should you only have the freedom to study a work (content), or should you also have the freedom to study how a work was created (software)?

The definition talks about the freedom to make and release (distribute?) modifications but it doesn't say anything about source copies of work. I can think of several examples where the freedom to make modifications can be provided, but without a source copy of a work (i.e. in the format preferred for making modifications) making modifications could be prohibitive:

  • Protected PDF - sure, decrypting such a PDF is possible but its a) tricky to export a PDF to a format that can be modified with all the information intact (images, tables, etc), and b) it may be illegal to decrypt protected PDFs in certain juristictions (DMCA?)
  • Text content as image files - a user could allow users the freedom to modify his written works but only distribute them in image format. It is difficult for downstream users to then extract the text content

You also talk about "free content licenses" where you should really be talking about free content works: a license enables a free content work, but

Free experession is not the same as free content: you can have the right to free expresssion without having free content, and free content does not guarantee free expression.

I hope this is helpful. --Rgladwell 20:25, 1 May 2006 (CEST)

Thanks for your comments. If you don't mind, I will move them to Talk:Definition/Unstable and respond there, just to have all comments in one place. First thoughts: You raise a very good point. Is it possible for something to be free content without the "source code" (or something equivalent) being available? Under the current definition, it is. Perhaps we need to find a wording that requires source availabiliy where such sources are essential to modifying the work. More later,--Erik Möller 20:42, 1 May 2006 (CEST)
I've dispatched some of the comments into their own sections in Definition/Unstable. --Antoine 22:16, 1 May 2006 (CEST)
Is there somewhere I can sign? -rhY-
In terms of source requirements, should it be more along the lines of source must be supplied where it existed in the making of the derivative and in the case of simple copies, if source was available for the original?

Wow ... you even frame/structure Talk?! ... meh. Anyhow, nota: you have Definition as your default index (wrong ... on basic principle, wrong ... you program? think trampolene) but Definition links to the rest of the site very very poorly. --BenTrem 01:07, 25 June 2006 (CEST)


License 333 and version 0.66 -- it is a sign! Excellent.

The Open Knowledge Definition

Last september/october the Open Knowledge Foundation 'ported' the Open Source Definiton to produce the Open Knowledge Definition (full text).

This came out of various discussions with people working on open geodata, open access, and open databases of scientific data. As I wrote then:

"The Open Knowledge Definition (OKD) provides an answer to the question: what is open knowledge? It puts forward, in a simple and clear manner, principles that define open knowledge and which open knowledge licenses must satisfy.

The concept of openness has already started to spread rapidly beyond its original roots in academia and software. We already have 'open access' journals, open genetics, open geodata, open content etc. As the concept spreads so we are seeing a proliferation of licenses and a potential blurring of what is open and what is not.

In such circumstances it is important to preserve compatibility, guard against dilution of the concept, and provide a common thread to this multitude of activities across a variety of disciplines. The definition, by providing clear set of criteria for openness, is an essential tool in achieving these ends."

I therefore think this new initiative is a big step forward at a time, when at least to judge from my experience of debates about the CC license at Free Culture UK, there is no clear consensus about terms such as 'Free Content' (and therefore no consensus about the norms of the community).

Given the common interest in these issues I'd very much like to get further involved in the FCED -- and parhaps also look at a way to merge the OKD and the FCED.


My take

"Works built by communities collaborating as volunteers, art created for the purpose of shared enjoyment, essential learning materials, scientific research funded through taxpayer money, and many other works do not benefit from artificial scarcity. They benefit from being used freely."

I think this needs some revising. Production and quality do not benefit from artificial scarcity- individual works may very much so benefit. The last sentence needs some amending- Free content is not just used Freely, but more. An important distinction to my mind.

  1. the freedom to redistribute copies, in whole or in part, of the information or expression
  2. the freedom to make improvements or other changes, and to release modified copies

This freedom isn't very clear. Does this involve not charging, or are "reasonable and non-discriminatory" licensing fees acceptable?

My take on this question: those fees are not acceptable as normally understood. But it does not involve not charging either. For instance, in Free Software, you can charge whatever you can manage when someone obtains a copy from you. That you cannot do is make them pay you a fee when they then make copies of that copy for themselves.
"Any original work of authorship is copyrighted. Under copyright law, authors are considered God-like "creators" and are given legal powers they can use against those who duplicate "their" content in altered or unaltered form."

Personally, I'd like a bit of a mention of the artificiality of copyright. That first line certainly makes it sound like copyright is a God-given natural right.

More generally, the attribution section strikes me as troublesome. What happens if I take an article, on Fujiwara no Teika, say, which is a stub, and work like the dickens on it, until it is orders of magnitude larger, such that there is not so much as a single word in common with the original article? Should the first person still be credited as the original author? --maru ( 06:47, 6 May 2006 (CEST))


Please also consult the Adelphi charter.

And regarding Public domain there is also the concept of "gemeinfrei"/common free in droit' auteur regulation. i.e. public property vs. free to use

The freedom to use and perform the work

I'd like to see the word "display" added to this since perform covers music and plays while display would cover films and pictures.Geni 01:46, 14 February 2007 (CET)

Since we speak of any use, private or public, and all related rights, this is covered, but I agree that we can & should explicitly enumerate it in the next version.--Erik Möller 02:45, 14 February 2007 (CET)

Discussion list

Is it possible to host the discussion list elsewhere than Google Groups? Not everyone wants to centralize their activity in a Google account. Not to mention that plain-jane Mailman archives are so much more usable than Google's system. Thanks. --Antoine 12:44, 16 February 2007 (CET)

I can host a mailman list for this on Wikia if there's no objection to that. Angela Beesley 14:18, 17 February 2007 (CET)
Thanks for the offer - but I'd prefer to host the list with Mako. He's already offered to set up a list for us. As a private company in the wiki space which, I hope, will one day adopt the definition, I don't want Wikia to be seen as in any way influencing its content (same reason I wouldn't host the list with Wikimedia).--Erik Möller 14:40, 17 February 2007 (CET)
Thanks, anything resembling a normal mailing-list with public archives will be ok. --Antoine 15:31, 18 February 2007 (CET)

Metaphor suggestion

I would like to thank the developers of this definition for clearly distinguishing between works that are truly free, and those that are only semi-free. One thing the concept lacks, though, is a simple metaphor as in "free as in beer" vs. "free as in speech", that can be used to illustrate the basic distinction of this paradigm in a non-technical way. Not sure if such a thing belongs in an official definition, but I think it's something we should have around. I think I might have come up with something helpful, which is explained in the passage below:

Many licenses are called "free", but they are free in different ways. One has to ask, is a work "free to pamphlet" or "free to marionette"? A "free to pamphlet" work may be free to hand out copies (while rewriting or sale is restricted), but a "free to marionette" work is free to adapt into a marionette show, and to sell tickets at the door to rent the theatre and feed the hungry puppetteers.--Pharos 00:03, 19 February 2007 (CET)

I think that is a nice metaphor for an essay. I would encourage you to draft an essay here -- I hope that, like the GNU site, will eventually be a solid collection of philosophical material.--Erik Möller 21:13, 19 February 2007 (CET)
Thanks, I've written something at Free to marionette. Not sure where it goes in the structure, though.--Pharos 09:29, 24 February 2007 (CET)
I've collected that and some other material I found here at Portal:Free Culture Soapbox. There didn't seem to be any established place for such material till now, so I just went ahead and created one.--Pharos 08:01, 10 March 2007 (CET)

Source data

I think the source data section will still need some work to deal with cases where such data is simply not obtainable; IMHO that should not make the work non-free.--Erik Möller 21:11, 19 February 2007 (CET)

I think this is a very tricky part. The source vs. binary duality is very different in the case of a creative work. If I took a photo of a flower would the source data be the flower itself, the raw format of the photo, or would the jpg be enough? If I released a png after adjusting the white balance, would I still have to release the raw format for a work to be free and be excused only if I happen to 'accidentally' destroy the raw data? I think that as long as a work is editable the source data is irrelevant. In the case of software, not releasing source places a technical impediment to modifying the work. In the case of a 3D scene this might also be the case, but in the case of an image it is clearly not. In the case of an audio file, or a film, would the author have to release the off cuts? I would not think so. --Inkwina 16:07, 13 March 2007 (CET)

I think is this fine to distinguish between works where there are no "source data" and where there is. A not yet fleshed-out thought is that anything that can be modified non-destructively should be available for distribution in the preferred form for modification. Kat Walsh 18:28, 27 March 2007 (CEST)

Copyleft suggestion

I would like to see a discussion of copyleft and what it needs to have to promote / protect a pool of Free Works.

Moral rights

There are some moral rights (droit d'auteur not copyright) that I have as an author and due to legal restriction I can't waive them. Does this make my work unfree? This page or Permissible restrictions does not address this issue.

PS. You may call me old fashioned, but I don't think sentences like these give a mature and intelligent impression: "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." Samulili from Wikimedia projects

I agree, the hostility is unnecessary and immature. 22:47, 1 April 2007 (CEST)
In my opinion, moral rights do not make your own work un-free, because they don't forbid other people to e.g. make modifications, they allow you to oppose some modifications on a case by case basis. --Antoine 20:21, 6 April 2007 (CEST)

Commercial Restrictions

What about some restrictions on the commercial distribution of a work? That is, a free culture work can be copied and those copies can be shared but with some restrictions on selling those copies when permission is not granted.

That isn't free content. Commercial Restrictions are explicitly not permissible restrictions. Angela Beesley 18:20, 3 April 2007 (CEST)

In the summary...

considered "free." --> considered "free".--Alnokta 20:47, 9 April 2007 (CEST)

"god-like creators"?

From the definition: "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."

Is this even true? The purpose of Western copyright law is not meant to prop authors upon some pedestal to be worshiped, but to provide direct incentives for them to publish in the first place. Thus society benefits from the all-rights-reserved work, even if to a lesser extent than if work was freely licensed. I recall at least one US Supreme Court case finding that the primary purpose of copyright/patents is to provide for the benefit of society, and secondly to reward the author if he/she so chooses. Congress has made policy decisions to exempt works of federal employees from copyright, provide for "fair usage", and set (generous) copyright duration limits.

My incentive to publish most of my work under free licenses is to promote a progressive international society. I expect that the Congress that passed the original version of copyright law shared the same values, as they have created the foundation which makes our work possible. Thanks, GChriss (Who is not a lawyer.) 23:46, 10 April 2007 (CEST)

True, but one has to appreciate the significant difference between original intentions and truth on the ground. I believe that the Original intentions of the people who first came up with the idea of copyright where not to different from ours, when taken in the context of the period. Yet, I think that legislative development is an evolutionary process, and evolutionary process exist in a state of equilibrium which can become unstable, at which point a fork (not dissimilar to a source code fork) tends to occur.
I think that in the case of Creative Works this fork has occurred (with the emergence of the internet as the critical factor driving the imbalance) with the "Freedom Culture" and the "IP protectionist Culture" as its two branches, both relying on the same resource, namely "Copyright laws" to archive their goals. Therefore, it is very important to make it absolutely clear how the "Freedom Culture" differs from the "IP Protectionist Culture", by stating the state of affairs as they are today, not based n original intentions. On the other hand a Definition ought not to rely on emotionally charged statements to provide its information. I think that statement needs to be changed not because of what it tries to convey, but because of how it does it ... because at the end of the day the medium is the message. --Inkwina 15:27, 13 May 2007 (CEST)
By "truth on the ground," do you mean to say that aggressive copyright compliance has historically increased? The idea is plausible, but I am interested in seeing direct evidence of such a claim.
I agree that making "absolutely clear how the "Freedom Culture" differs from the "IP Protectionist Culture"" is terribly important. I also posit that we should respect both and acknowledge that "free" is not always appropriate. The author needs to make that choice, a choice partially informed by Thanks, GChriss 16:04, 14 May 2007 (CEST)

By the "truth on the ground" I mean the actual legislation and regulations that are in effect today that are supposed to implement that original intention, as well as case law, actual enforcement, the current context particularly asyncronisity with the digital media, adequacy in view of globalisation etc ... and current public perception of those intentions
So, in short, I think we are agreeing. Where I do tend to differ slightly is on the appropriatness of freedom. I think that while in the current situation ""free" is not always appropriate", this in not necessary to the human condition, but rather and incidental effect of history. On the other hand a definition like this needs to address the here and now, and not some potential state-of-affairs where humanity enjoys universal intellectual freedom. But, again, we mostly agree see here for e.g. --Inkwina 18:20, 14 May 2007 (CEST)
Yes. I should add that I am one to enjoy history :-) I'll catch you around, GChriss 20:10, 14 May 2007 (CEST)

Why the sneering tone towards authorship anyway? Free Content isn't about limiting author's rights, it's about convincing people that it's better for authors to share, not that they're misguided in wanting some control at all. It's really all about the author's control over the work, because without it an author couldn't say "you must follow the GPL" any more than he could say 'no copying.' 05:08, 22 May 2007 (CEST)

Photos should not be modified

There are legal restrictions on the use and modification of photos, especially if they show living people. Personality rights in many countries do not allow to use photos in a way that could be regarded as libel. Photos of buildings or industrial products do not include the right to reproduce them. So the definition of free photos should be less permissive than the current definition and should not include the right of unlimited changes. -- 21:28, 19 May 2007 (CEST)


There is no mention of trademark restrictions in this article. Does the section No other restrictions or limitations also include trademark restrictions? To give an example, the w:Empire State Building is protected by trademark restrictions, so it is not "free of limitations". Is a photo of it -- a photo that was released by the photographer under a free license -- to be considered "free" according to the definition? / commons:User:Fred J 17:55, 29 May 2007 (CEST)

This is an excellent question. The best example I can think of is Linux, which is obviously freely-licensed and yet there was a huge controversy and court case surrounding the trademark issue. See Copyright, licensing and the Linux trademark and [1]. Usually it's not a problem, but the trademark issue can make things complicated. Wikipedia, which is GFDl of course, uses trademarks all the time, and has a disclaimer about it: w:Wikipedia:General_disclaimer. w:User:Nadav1 16:06, 31 May 2007 (CEST)
See also m:User talk:Eloquence#Licensing policy: request for clarification, where I had asked Erik Möller for a clarification regarding that point. The issue goes beyond trademarks. Photographs of people, for instance, cannot be used in advertising without the subject's express consent in many countries, AFAIK (personality rights). What about design protection? And so on... Lupo 11:15, 1 June 2007 (CEST)

Wiki content license

This is terrible, you selected some license, which is still in heavy 'development' to license the content and didn't even say '2.5 or later'. Please! Use instead something like the gnu project does with "Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved." at the end of each page. Who can actually decide such a change in this wiki?!? --Qubodup 23:49, 1 December 2007 (CET)

What substantial problem do you see with CC-BY 2.5? I agree that we should add the "any later version" clause, though technically that's problematic at this point.--Erik Möller 11:09, 4 December 2007 (CET)
Selecting ONE license of many for this definition of content freedom marks this one license special. Why CCby2.5? Why not FAL (LAL) 1.2? Why not GFDL? Why not GPL? If there should be a license for the definition's content at all, it should be every single of the accepted 'free content' licenses (are the ones on the licenses page valid free content licenses?) or something extremely simple and permissive as what the GNU project uses for it's web text content. --Qubodup 20:33, 4 December 2007 (CET)
PS: A terrible solution would be something like "every change made starting with 04. Dec 2007 is licensed under all of the following licenses and any of their later versions"

Doesn't CC-BY 2.5 itself say that it can be relicensed under any later version (and any national version)?

Allowing reuse of content under any free cultural work license would be certainly wiser, though. It's a bit strange that free cultural works are not permitted to include the definition of free cultural works (unless they use cc-by license, and only that). --Tgr 22:53, 23 December 2007 (CET)

Existing exemptions

Free Culture Licenses do not take 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.

What exactly does this section intend to state? In the strict sense, a license can never limit an exemption (thats why it is called an exemption). If it's meant in a more general sense, saying that FC licenses are not intended to limit your rights, thats not quite true: they do limit your right to relicense derivative works.

For example, some countries have a concept called panorama freedom: photos made of copyrighted buildings and statues do not need permission from the copyright owner. Thus if somebody takes a picture of a statue, he can treat it as if it were fully his own work: sell it for money, grant limited distribution rights etc. If the statue was under a free "viral" license, that license would explicitly forbid this (the photo being a derivative work). Thus free licenses can take away rights (not freedoms though; actually they take away your right to reduce the freedom of others to use your work). --Tgr 01:35, 24 December 2007 (CET)

An Objective Definition of Free?

I've written two books about copyright, ( "Bounty Hunters: Metaphors for Fair IP Law" and ( Libre Labyrinth". Both are licensed CC-BY. "Bounty Hunters" is more geared towards understanding how to find copyright laws that are fair for All Rights Reserved applications and how Free/Libre/Open projects fit into that context. "Libre Labyrinth" focuses on objectively describing and comparing different Free/Libre/Open licenses.

The GNU-GPL is graphed out on pages 40 and 41 of "Libre Labyrinth". The main point is that all the "rooms" (all the areas that could be monopolized through some IP law) are open to one another. All the "doors" have been taken off the hinges (it's a bit of an odd metaphor for explaing Venn Diagrams that include allowed state transistions, but it's explained in the beginning of the book, and it seems to work), so there is no one-way trap-doors that allow someone to monopolize the work.

It would seem that this would qualify as an objectively measurable definition of "Free". I thought you might find this useful, but didn't want to put my own works into your wiki. Conflict of interest, and all that. If this is useful, someone can put it in your main page. If it's not, then feel free to leave it out.

GregLondon 00:19, 29 February 2008 (EST)