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
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Pushing to 1.0

I've made some significant changes to move us closer to 1.0, and I think that these are in line with the previous discussions as well as some comments from RMS:

  • I've tried to change the language so it can apply to physical works like sculptures. For instance, the definition now refers to derivative works instead of modified versions.
  • I've sectioned the page clearly into defining separately what a free license is and what a free work is. New conditions are now listed to define free works. For instance, a computer program that is only available in binary form under CC-BY would not be considered a free work now.
  • I've removed the term "Free Expression" -- it was largely negatively received in our naming discussion -- and now refer to the definition only as the Free Content Definition. To compensate, I've listed several specific terms and specific definitions that can be used in fields like knowledge, art and software.
  • I've made a reference to DRM, and changed a few bits in the preamble.

Please help in checking and improving these changes -- remember this is the unstable version, so anyone is free to edit. I'd like to reach 1.0 in August. By then I would also like to change the logo in the top left corner. My current favorite is Marc Falzon's design, so please comment on that on the logo contest page.

Thanks,--Erik Möller 04:11, 30 July 2006 (CEST)

Hi Erik, I still think we should go for numbered freedoms as in the free software definition. 
Maybe I am missing something (coming in a bit late), but freedom 0 (of FS def) does not have an analog: 
i.e. "The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0)" FSF]. 
Also, copyleft, a pre-requsite for freedom does not seem to be inherent in the definition yet. So, how about:
Users are free to
(0) use the work for any purpose
(1) study its mechanisms, to be able to modify and adapt it to their own needs
(2) make and distribute copies, in whole or in part
(3) enhance and/or extend the work and share the result similarly.
Freedoms 1 and 3 require free formats and free software as defined by the Free Software Foundation
It might be worth considering the generalisations implicit in the Libre Resources definition:
Libre Resources:
Libre implies freedom to access, read, listen to, watch, or otherwise experience the resource; 
to learn with, copy, perform, adapt and use it for any purpose; and to contribute and share 
enhancements or derived works.

Making it shorter

Great work, Erik! I think we have a problem: the text is very long. I would advocate finding ways to make it shorter, including putting some not-so-fundamental topics on their own pages, or in footnotes.

In particular, the preamble repeats lots of things that are said elsewhere. It has its own version of the bill of rights, which can only bring confusion. I suggest we strip it from the preamble. I also suggest we remove most of the second part of the preamble, starting from "Not all licenses grant the freedoms enumerated above", because it is really another slightly different way of saying what is said in clearer terms in the definition body.

Regards --Antoine 09:54, 30 July 2006 (CEST)

Yes, I think we can probably do some culling in the preamble. I'm not sure whether the short summary of the key freedoms really is redundant, though, especially now that we distinguish between licenses and works. The summary of the freedoms seems to provide an additional ethical context.--Erik Möller 19:37, 31 July 2006 (CEST)
Agreed. This is definitely too long. Why don't we remove the recommendations. They seem written with the GFDL in mind and with the goal of putting pressure on Richard Stallman. Richard has said that having them in this document serves no purposes -- especially since the GFDL is free under this license. I think we can loose it. --Benjamin Mako Hill 01:25, 8 August 2006 (CEST)

Agreed - too long. In the early stages of Libre Communities, we started off with a direct derivation of the free software definition:

Libre Resources are digital artefacts (e.g. text, images, video, software, etc.) which may be used freely.

Users are free to:

(0) use the work for any purpose

(1) study its mechanisms, to be able to modify and adapt it to their own needs

(2) make and distribute copies, in whole or in part

(3) enhance and/or extend the work and share the result similarly.

Freedoms 1 and 3 require free formats and free software as defined by the Free Software Foundation (Kim)

Use of the term "Free"

If an object or item has any restrictions upon it, such as a copyright license of any form, it is by definition not free. This so-called definition is merely deciding how much restriction is still "free enough". This will be be subjective, and supporting a single point of view. I could never support such a definition, personally, because I make an effort to avoid hypocrisy. - Amgine 18:58, 30 July 2006 (CEST)

I'm afraid there's not much to argue here. You are objecting to a "subjective" definition of freedom, as though there was such a thing as an "objective" definition of freedom recognized by everyone. The Free Content Definition must be read in the context of works of authorship. In this context it has the potential to become a very useful ethical and political reference point. Trying to make it coincide with everyone's own personal view of "theoretical freedom" is a battle which can only be lost and thus does not deserve to be fought.
In short, we'll probably have to agree to disagree. --Antoine 21:05, 30 July 2006 (CEST)
The only allowable conditions as per the FCD are either those that protect freedom, or those that we consider morally acceptable (e.g. attribution, which cannot even be given up in many countries). I fail to see how an ethical interpretation of freedom is hypocritical.--Erik Möller 19:37, 31 July 2006 (CEST)
The free software definition refers to 4 core freedoms. An apparent "restriction", such as the requirement to release derived works under the same license, or an equivalent free license (copyleft), actually protects the core freedoms. Kim

A few thoughts to inspire more discussion :-): [Kim]

  • Maybe the term "Libre" would be better? (e.g. Libre Resources Definition). The discussion here is all good and equally applicable to this term.
  • Emphasise the freedom of the *users* of libre resources (authors are free to decide whether they release their resources with a free/libre license).

Another alternative: "Free/Libre Defined"

Altruism or not


the following excerpt of the preamble looks like it could lead to misunderstandings : 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 creative expressions are harmed by artificial scarcity. They benefit from being used freely. We therefore believe that these works should be free (...).

It seems to imply that works built by paid people, art created for other purposes than pure shared enjoyment, non-essential learning materials, etc., should not really be free, or that we don't care. It also contradicts the experience of Free Software where it is clear that cooperation between all kinds of actors (including those with egoistic purposes) is key to the vitality of the ecosystem. We should therefore think about another phrasing -- stressing the diversity of fields (software, art, etc.) and actors rather than making it look like a praise for altruism.

--Antoine 14:31, 22 August 2006 (CEST)

More changes


I've tried to further streamline the definition. I think it's important that each part of the definition has a precise purpose. For example, the preamble must mainly explain the political/ethical/moral purposes of this definition.

Even now, I have the feeling the definition is still long and a bit bureaucratically worded. I think for example that the discussion of why Free Culture et al. are too ambiguous should move to a separate page (which could also discuss why non-commercial and other restrictions are harmful).

Regards. --Antoine 15:49, 22 August 2006 (CEST)

Alternate preamble

I would like to propose the following draft for a slight rephrasing of the preamble: --Antoine 15:10, 23 August 2006 (CEST)

Social and technological advances make it possible for a growing part of mankind to access, create, modify, publish and distribute various kinds of works -- art works, scientific and educational materials, software, articles -- in short: anything that can be represented in digital form. Many communities, built upon mutually accepted ethical values, have arisen to give strength and structure to these instinctive practices; some of them in turn take part in broader social movements such as Free Software.

In most countries however, any original work of authorship is automatically covered by either copyright law or similar legal regimes3, which consider authors as god-like "creators" and give them exclusive powers they can use against people who try to re-use "their" content. These laws, whose economic justifications have their roots in Middle Age Europe, not only are not amended to acknowledge the growing importance of the practices outlined above, but are being made increasingly severe and far-reaching in the ways they restrict our freedoms. New tools such as DRM (or Digital Restrictions Management) are part of this desperate plan to limit the free spread and sharing of works by artifically enforcing scarcity.

Most authors, whatever their field of activity, whatever their professionnal status, have a genuine interest in favoring a graceful ecosystem where works can be freely spread, re-used and derived in creative ways. In this ecosystem which is often called "culture", existing and future works benefit from being used freely. We therefore believe that works of authorship should be free, and by freedom we mean:

  • the freedom to study the work and to apply knowledge acquired from it
  • the freedom to make and redistribute copies, in whole or in part, of the information or expression
  • the freedom to make changes and improvements, and to distribute derivative works

For a work to be free, these freedoms should be available to absolutely anyone, anywhere. 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.

To do give these freedoms, authors can choose among a vast array of legal documents known as licenses; licenses make it very easy for authors to give and take their part in the vast ecosystem of authorship. Putting a work under a free license does not mean the author loses all his rights, but it gives to anyone the freedoms listed above. It is also possible in some countries to explicitly release a work into the public domain, which waives all rights the author has on the work1.

The rest of this document precisely defines the essential freedoms and provides guidelines by which licenses and works can be certified as meeting this definition, and therefore called "free".

Since there has been no comment or answer for 3 weeks, I've committed a modified version of this proposal. Antoine 16:56, 17 September 2006 (CEST)

Final name

We've finally settled on a final name: Definition of Free Cultural Works. I will work on a rewrite towards a final draft for discussion very soon now.--Erik Möller 10:21, 18 October 2006 (CEST)

First, welcome back...
Then, it's shocking to learn that you've finally settled on a "final name". I don't really understand the process here: there was an online discussion (on this very wiki) about the name of the definition, a discussion which, as far as I remember, you had initiated. Why exactly did you finally decide to choose another name without any public proposal (a Google search at the moment writing reveals zero result for "Definition of Free Cultural Works", so I assume it was never discussed online) ?
(it's not like this wiki was wasted by trolls and useless discussions by the way, so the efficiency argument would be misplaced)
You say you want to go towards a final draft, which is fine. At the same time, you showed absolutely no concern for the few people who continued contributing on this wiki, despite the moderators being absent during a long time for no stated reason (actually two of the four moderators almost never contributed anything significant on this wiki). How does that fit with the stated goal of rallying a community around the words and ideas in the definition?
Speaking about this new name, I don't think it is very good. "Works" already implies a creation of the mind, so adding "Cultural" in front seems it targets more specific kinds of creations of the mind (it does not look like it includes software, or scientific articles, for example). Not to mention that "Free Cultural Works" is longer and less catchy then say, "Free Content" or "Free Culture".
All in all I'm quite disappointed. The free content (free culture, whatever) world needs something else than Yet Another Definition written in private by a group of good-willed people. This project was - at its beginning - promising to be open, community-driven. Now it seems you don't really want that after all. I hope to be proven wrong.
Bye, Antoine 18:31, 21 October 2006 (CEST)
It was important to us (Mako and myself, the co-initiators of the definition) to label the definition in a way which is agreeable to the important institutions of the Free Culture movement -- FSF, Creative Commons, Wikimedia, and so on. The discussion on the wiki was absolutely crucial to the entire process. All the names that have been listed here have been mentioned and repeatedly considered. Mako and I have spoken personally to Lessig, RMS, Moglen, and others about this. Now that, after many hours of talking, we have finally found something everyone seems to be able to agree to (more or less enthusiastically), you will have to understand that I am reluctant to second-guess the decision. Certainly, it is always nicer to have a larger scale community process to give a decision legitimacy, but I also believe that process is not an end in itself, and hope we can move foward together. I certainly appreciate (and am well aware of) all the work you have done on this wiki.
Regarding your specific critique: the strength of "Free Cultural Works", in my opinion, is that it references the notion of "Free Culture" without explicitly being called a "Free Culture Definition". It also reduces the "work (labor)" vs. "work (intellectual)" ambiguity in the singular. For example, if I refer to a CD as a "Free Work", the response "So you've worked for free?" is almost inevitable. I do not agree that "Free Cultural" excludes software or scientific articles; in my opinion, both are very much and very clearly cultural works, and should be explicitly referenced.
That the title of the definition itself is not quite catchy may not be such a bad thing -- we will not attempt to prescribe that you have to call free cultural works by that exact phrase. Instead, what I would like to do is to explicitly reference other phrases which have similar meanings, such as "free content" and "open knowledge".--Erik Möller 17:28, 23 October 2006 (CEST)
I understand you want to put Lessig, RMS and others on our side, but I think we shouldn't care. We have to do this work because FSF and CC refused to take position in the first place, so we are the ones setting a standard.
Anyway, I'm ready to further contribute. But, sincerely, it will be difficult unless things stop being done in private. Regards, Antoine 21:06, 25 October 2006 (CEST)
It would be fine if there had been offline discussion, provided that details were posted to the wiki here so that we could also see it, at the time or after the fact. Indeed, you have a wiki, so one might ask why the discussion was not carried out through the wiki, which would seem designed for the task?
Also, like Antoine, I have a great deal of respect for Richard Stallman and for Lawrence Lessig, who through their writings have between them opened my eyes to freedom. Nevertheless, we should not fear to build on that, and hope to equal or exceed what has passed before.
--Mercury Merlin 22:48, 25 October 2006 (CEST)

look forward to seeing updates, anyway

The definition so far in unstable is a distinct improvement from version 0.66, for a wiki like this to start working effectively we need to be seeing more updates to it by more contributors, and that would also be in line with the philosophy being developed here.

Eric's "finally settled" seems ... an unfortunate turn of phrase to be using, and certainly "Cultural Works" strikes me as having connotation, baggage and implied scope that would be not be as good as what is in the current document. By contrast, "Free content" is short, neutral, clear, and above all else generalised, applying to anything that can be expressed as a bitstream, whether or not it's Cultural, and whether or not it's a Work however that is defined.

I only discovered this wiki relatively recently, and certainly hope to be contributing to it in future, as I feel it's fulfilling a gap that's not satisfied anywhere else for the general case of Free content and Free media. There are still a few things I'd comment on in the current definition, for example:

==> I'm still not very keen on the "god-like" creators bit, despite no longer being capitalised, it still seems a bit too emotional, and contentious in my opinion. I'd like to see that replaced, perhaps by something expressing the way that exclusive monopoly separates creators and consumers, where recipients of content are relegated to being only passive consumers, not expected nor permitted to contribute or create anything to a finished "work" (oops, there's that term again!) - whereas consumers themselves may well be potential creators and contributors, just as happens on a wiki, and indeed the normal route to becoming a creator yourself is through learning, practise, and copying from those who have gone before.

In the meantime I am/have been working on one or two related essays, looking at what free content is or could be, whether under laws as they exist presently, or under a different regimen. Some of that can be found on my user talk page for now, depending where that goes I might move it elsewhere or if it would prove useful to the wiki perhaps to think about creating something like the philosophy page which lists and links to a variety of essays, articles, and other material underpinning the concepts behind Free software.

--Mercury Merlin 20:22, 21 October 2006 (CEST)

I feel the same about "god-like" being a bit emotional, but I also agree with the underlying idea: since the 19th century and the romantic movement, artists have been considered a special, almost separate kind of human beings. Today many people think it is a natural idea, while it is really very recent, and not a very justified one IMO.
regards, Antoine 00:41, 22 October 2006 (CEST)