Free content, libre content, libre information, or free information, is any kind of functional work,
A free cultural work is, according to the definition of Free Cultural Works, one that has no significant legal restriction on people's freedom to:
- use the content and benefit from using it,
- study the content and apply what is learned,
- make and distribute copies of the content,
- change and improve the content and distribute these derivative works.
Free content encompasses all works in the public domain and also those copyrighted works whose licenses honor and uphold the freedoms mentioned above. Because the Berne Convention in most countries by default grants copyright holders monopolistic control over their creations, copyright content must be explicitly declared free, usually by the referencing or inclusion of licensing statements from within the work.
Although there are a great many different definitions in regular everyday use, free content is legally very similar, if not like an identical twin, to open content. An analogy is a use of the rival terms free software and open-source, which describe ideological differences rather than legal ones. For instance, the Open Knowledge Foundation's Open Definition describes "open" as synonymous to the definition of free in the "Definition of Free Cultural Works" (as also in the Open Source Definition and Free Software Definition). For such free/open content both movements recommend the same three Creative Commons licenses, the CC BY, CC BY-SA, and CC0.
Copyright is a legal concept, which gives the author or creator of a work legal control over the duplication and public performance of their work. In many jurisdictions, this is limited by a time period after which the works then enter the public domain. Copyright laws are a balance between the rights of creators of intellectual and artistic works and the rights of others to build upon those works. During the time period of copyright the author's work may only be copied, modified, or publicly performed with the consent of the author, unless the use is a fair use. Traditional copyright control limits the use of the work of the author to those who either pay royalties to the author for usage of the author's content or limit their use to fair use. Secondly, it limits the use of content whose author cannot be found. Finally, it creates a perceived barrier between authors by limiting derivative works, such as mashups and collaborative content.
The public domain is a range of creative works whose copyright has expired or was never established, as well as ideas and facts[note 1] which are ineligible for copyright. A public domain work is a work whose author has either relinquished to the public or no longer can claim control over, the distribution and usage of the work. As such, any person may manipulate, distribute, or otherwise use the work, without legal ramifications. A work in the public domain or released under a permissive license may be referred to as "copycenter".
Copyleft is a play on the word copyright and describes the practice of using copyright law to remove restrictions on distributing copies and modified versions of a work. The aim of copyleft is to use the legal framework of copyright to enable non-author parties to be able to reuse and, in many licensing schemes, modify content that is created by an author. Unlike works in the public domain, the author still maintains copyright over the material, however, the author has granted a non-exclusive license to any person to distribute, and often modify, the work. Copyleft licenses require that any derivative works be distributed under the same terms and that the original copyright notices be maintained. A symbol commonly associated with copyleft is a reversal of the copyright symbol, facing the other way; the opening of the C points left rather than right. Unlike the copyright symbol, the copyleft symbol does not have a codified meaning.
Projects that provide free content exist in several areas of interest, such as software, academic literature, general literature, music, images, video, and engineering. Technology has reduced the cost of publication and reduced the entry barrier sufficiently to allow for the production of widely disseminated materials by individuals or small groups. Projects to provide free literature and multimedia content have become increasingly prominent owing to the ease of dissemination of materials that are associated with the development of computer technology. Such dissemination may have been too costly prior to these technological developments.
In media, which includes textual, audio, and visual content, free licensing schemes such as some of the licenses made by Creative Commons have allowed for the dissemination of works under a clear set of legal permissions. Not all Creative Commons licenses are entirely free; their permissions may range from very liberal general redistribution and modification of the work to a more restrictive redistribution-only licensing. Since February 2008, Creative Commons licenses which are entirely free carry a badge indicating that they are "approved for free cultural works". Repositories exist which exclusively feature free material and provide content such as photographs, clip art, music, and literature. While extensive reuse of free content from one website in another website is legal, it is usually not sensible because of the duplicate content problem. Wikipedia is amongst the most well-known databases of user-uploaded free content on the web. While the vast majority of content on Wikipedia is free content, some copyrighted material is hosted under fair-use criteria.
Engineering and technology
Free content principles have been translated into fields such as engineering, where designs and engineering knowledge can be readily shared and duplicated, in order to reduce overheads associated with project development.
In academic work, the majority of works are not free, although the percentage of works that are open access is growing rapidly.
Any country has its own law and legal system, sustained by its legislation, a set of law-documents—documents containing statutory
Open content describes any
The concept of applying free software licenses to content was introduced by Michael Stutz, who in 1997 wrote the paper "Applying Copyleft to Non-Software Information" for the GNU Project. The term "open content" was coined by David A. Wiley in 1998 and evangelized via the Open Content Project, describing works licensed under the Open Content License (a non-free share-alike license, see 'Free content' below) and other works licensed under similar terms.
It has since come to describe a broader class of content without conventional copyright restrictions. The openness of content can be assessed under the '5Rs Framework' based on the extent to which it can be reused, revised, remixed and redistributed by members of the public without violating copyright law. Unlike free content and content under open-source licenses, there is no clear threshold that a work must reach to qualify as 'open content'.
Although open content has been described as a counterbalance to copyright, open content licenses rely on a copyright holder's power to license their work, as copyleft which also utilizes copyright for such a purpose.
In 2005, the Open Icecat project was launched, in which product information for e-commerce applications was created and published under the Open Content License. It was embraced by the tech sector, which was already quite open source minded.
In 2006 the Creative Commons' successor project was the Definition of Free Cultural Works for free content, put forth by Erik Möller, Richard Stallman, Lawrence Lessig, Benjamin Mako Hill, Angela Beesley, and others. The Definition of Free Cultural Works is used by the Wikimedia Foundation. In 2008, the Attribution and Attribution-ShareAlike Creative Commons licenses were marked as "Approved for Free Cultural Works" among other licenses.
Another successor project is the
"Open content" definition
The website of the Open Content Project once defined open content as 'freely available for modification, use and redistribution under a license similar to those used by the open-source / free software community'. However, such a definition would exclude the Open Content License because that license forbids charging for content; a right required by free and open-source software licenses.
The term since shifted in meaning. Open content is "licensed in a manner that provides users with free and perpetual permission to engage in the 5R activities."
The 5Rs are put forward on the Open Content Project website as a framework for assessing the extent to which content is open:
- Retain – the right to make, own, and control copies of the content (e.g., download, duplicate, store, and manage)
- Reuse – the right to use the content in a wide range of ways (e.g., in a class, in a study group, on a website, in a video)
- Revise – the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)
- Remix – the right to combine the original or revised content with other open content to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup)
- Redistribute – the right to share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others (e.g., give a copy of the content to a friend)
This broader definition distinguishes open content from open-source software, since the latter must be available for commercial use by the public. However, it is similar to several definitions for open educational resources, which include resources under noncommercial and verbatim licenses.
The later Open Definition by the Open Knowledge Foundation define open knowledge with open content and open data as sub-elements and draws heavily on the Open Source Definition; it preserves the limited sense of open content as free content, unifying both.
"Open access" refers to toll-free or gratis access to content, mainly published originally peer-reviewed scholarly journals. Some open access works are also licensed for reuse and redistribution (libre open access), which would qualify them as open content.
Open content and education
Over the past decade, open content has been used to develop alternative routes towards higher education. Traditional universities are expensive, and their tuition rates are increasing.
The textbook industry is one of the educational industries in which open content can make the biggest impact.
According to the current definition of open content on the OpenContent website, any general, royalty-free copyright license would qualify as an open license because it 'provides users with the right to make more kinds of uses than those normally permitted under the law. These permissions are granted to users free of charge.'
However, the narrower definition used in the Open Definition effectively limits open content to libre content, any free content license, defined by the Definition of Free Cultural Works, would qualify as an open content license. According to this narrower criteria, the following still-maintained licenses qualify:
- Creative Commons licenses (only Creative Commons Attribution, Attribution-Share Alike and Zero)
- Open Publication License (the original license of the Open Content Project, the Open Content License, did not permit for-profit copying of the licensed work and therefore does not qualify)
- Against DRM license
- GNU Free Documentation License (without invariant sections)
- Open Game License (designed for role-playing games by Wizards of the Coast)
- Free Art License
- Digital rights
- Open source
- Free education
- Free software movement
- Freedom of information
- Information wants to be free
- Open publishing
- Open-source hardware
- ISBN 92-64-03174-X.
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