Free content, free cultural works or free information, are intangible products whose content is permitted to be used and disseminated without any owner having to be compensated financially or any author having to be consulted. In general, the material has a license that regulates how the product may be used (how the author is to be identified, etc.). This can apply to the content of program documentation and other texts, media, art, images, sound, technical design, and more. Sometimes software is also included (see free software).
Examples of high-profile projects for free content are:
the Wikipedia encyclopedia (founded 2001) and the Wikimedia Foundation's other wikis,
the book Free culture: How the big media companies use technology and law to limit culture and lock in creativity by law professor Lawrence Lessig (2004), who quickly gained a large number of readers after the author spread the book via the Internet.
Open Street Map (from 2004)
some open learning resources and mooc courses.
certain research journals that apply free access (Open access)
The term free content is often used interchangeably with open content, and the relationship between the terms is often compared to that between free software and open source. According to the Free Culture movement, however, licenses for free content must give freedom to change and further develop the work, and allow parts of the work to be reused in other works. Open source licenses do not always provide this freedom. Open content refers to content that is available under rules that are "less restrictive" than applicable copyright laws. The Free Culture Movement (which has defined the concept of free cultural works) advises against using terms such as Open Content and Open Access, to identify free cultural works, as it is believed that these do not provide a clear definition. In the case of academic publishing, the term free access or open access (OA) often means that the publisher allows the author to freely duplicate the article on the web and that distribution does not only take place via the publisher's magazines and password-protected website. Sometimes free access also means essentially the same thing as free content, namely that the publications are published under a free content license. However, the license may be more restrictive, for example so that the author reserves the exclusive right to process and reuse in other works.
The fact that the material you use is under a free license and that you follow the license terms does not mean that you could not be accused of plagiarism. In the case of academic publication in particular, the issue of plagiarism is separate from economic copyright, which is what licenses are all about.
Other closely related concepts are crowd sourcing and open innovation.
Definition and criteria
The Free Culture Movement defines free cultural works and the more general concept of free content as:
freedom to use and perform the work
freedom to study the work and take part in the information
freedom to disseminate several copies of the information or the work of art, both the whole work or parts thereof
freedom to change the work and disseminate adaptations In order for the work to be considered free, it is also required that:
source data that enables processing and reproduction must be freely available with the work, such as notes for pieces of music, 3d models for computer graphics, data for diagrams and scientific texts, or source code for computer programs.
file format must be free or royalty free, or a version must be available in free format.
no technical measures or legal restrictions may be used to restrict the freedoms. Permitted but not necessary restrictions in free license