October 17, 2021

Free content, also known as open content, refers to content whose free use and distribution is permitted by copyright. This can apply after the legal protection periods have expired, so that originally protected works are considered to be in the public domain. Alternatively, content is designated as free if the author or the owner of the full rights of use has placed a work under a free license. The legal structures of free content thus complement the legal protection of intellectual property. Free content is also protected by copyright, provided it is under a free license. The respective license regulates the conditions that must be observed when using it. The idea of ​​creating free content arose analogously to free software.

The terms "free content" and "open content"

The term Open Content was coined by the Open Content Initiative started by David A. Wiley, which introduced an Open Content license in 1998 and an Open Publication license in 1999. The terms "free content" and "open content" are now often equated. There are different "degrees of freedom", ranging from the right to attribution and copyleft to the permission to change and / or commercial use to the waiver of any terms of use. Others such as the definition of free cultural works and the open definition define "free cultural Works ”or“ open knowledge ”as content that can be changed by anyone and used commercially.

The use of free content

Free content is used in the following areas: Media, e.g. B. texts, images, music, films, animations and models Software, see Open Source Technology. Open hardware and open source enable private individuals to manufacture or expand products themselves. Databases, see Open Data Science and teaching, see Open Access and Open Science Politics, see Open Government Learning and teaching materials, Open Educational Resources Arts

Free content provider

Wikipedia and its sister projects are currently one of the largest archives of free content. Other well-known representatives of Open Content are the Internet Archive, Open Directory Project, LibriVox,, OpenStreetMap and freedb. Flickr offers extensive image material under free Creative Commons licenses as well as a collection of historical, copyright-free images from the US Library of Congress. The Federal Agency for Civic Education publishes some of its publications under a free license. The German Aerospace Center and the European Southern Observatory also make their images and films freely available under license. "OpenBooks" are books whose texts can be used by anyone free of charge. These can be works whose copyright has expired, but also z. B. current books, especially from the IT area, which are freely offered. Another area of ​​free content is online courses (Open Educational Resources) as well as various manuals and documentation that were created for free software. In addition, considerable successes have been achieved in the science sector with the Open Access Initiative. There are now over 1168 scientific open content journals. However, contrary to the principles mentioned in the Berlin Declaration, this content is often only freely accessible, but may not be redistributed or changed.

Public domain content

Older works, for which the copyright protection period has expired, which are now in the public domain, are made available through digitization in various projects. Project Gutenberg, for example, makes such content available in electronic form. E.

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