The Internet, February 14, 2007.

A diverse group of writers has released the first version of the “Definition of Free Cultural Works.” The authors have identified a minimum set of freedoms which they believe should be granted to all users of copyrighted materials. Created on a wiki with the feedback of Wikipedia users, open source hackers, artists, scientists, and lawyers, the definition lists the following core freedoms:

* The freedom to use and perform the work
* The freedom to study the work and apply the information
* The freedom to redistribute copies
* The freedom to distribute derivative works.

Inspired by the Free Software Definition and the ideals of the free software and open source movements, these conditions are meant to apply to any conceivable work. In reality, these freedoms must be granted explicitly by authors, through the use of licenses which confer them. On the website of the definition, <> a list of these licenses can be found. Furthermore, authors are encouraged to identify their works as Free Cultural Works using a set of logos and buttons.

The definition was initiated by Benjamin Mako Hill, a Debian GNU/Linux developer, and Erik Möller, an author and long-time Wikipedia user. Wikipedia already follows similar principles to those established by the definition. Angela Beesley, Wikimedia Advisory Board Chair and co-founder of; Mia Garlick, general counsel of Creative Commons; and Elizabeth Stark of the Free Culture Student Movement acted as moderators, while Richard Stallman of the Free Software Foundation and Lawrence Lessig of Creative Commons provided helpful feedback.

As more and more people recognize that there are alternatives to traditional copyright, phrases like “open source,” “open access,” “open content,” “free content,” and “commons” are increasingly used. But many of these phrases are ambiguous when it comes to distinguishing works and licenses which grant all the above freedoms, and those which only confer limited rights. For example, a popular license restricts the commercial use of works, whereas the authors believe that such use must be permitted for a work to be considered Free. Instead of limiting commercial use, they recommend using a clever legal trick called “copyleft:” requiring all users of the work to make their combined and derivative works freely available.

Möller and Hill encourage authors to rethink copyright law and use one of the Free Culture Licenses to help build a genuine free and open culture.


* – Official homepage of the definition
* – Information about specific licenses
* – Logos and buttons for identifying free cultural works


* Erik M̦ller Рeloquence (at) gmail (dot) com Р+49-30-45491008
* Benjamin Mako Hill – mako (at) atdot (dot) cc