Free culture movement: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Lawrence Lessig standing at a podium with a microphone, with a laptop computer in front of him.
Lawrence Lessig in front of a laptop labeled "free culture"

The free culture movement is a social movement that promotes the freedom to distribute and modify creative works in the form of Free content[1][2] by using the Internet and other forms of media.

The movement objects to overly restrictive copyright laws. Many members of the movement argue that such laws hinder creativity. They call this system "permission culture".[3]

The ideology of free culture and progressive copyright law were originally initiated as the protection of imaginative culture-producers from legal threats of corporations who did not allow employment of their art or commerce.

The exchange of ideas in free culture is well tied with free software movement. Richard Stallman, the founder of GNU project, and the free software activist, believed to share information with someone who needs it. He famously stated free culture means free as in “free speech,” not “free beer.”

Today, the term stands for many other movements, including hacker computing, the access-to-knowledge movement and the Copyleft movement.

The term “free culture” was originally the title of a 2004 book by Lawrence Lessig, a founding father of free culture movement.[4]



In 1998, Congress passed the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act which President Clinton signed into law. The legislation extended copyright protections for twenty additional years, resulting the total guaranteed copyright term to seventy years after a creator’s death. The bill was heavily lobbied by corporations like Disney, and dubbed as the Mickey Mouse Protection Act.

Lawrence Lessig claimed this as an obstacle against the cultural production and technological innovation through the public domain, as the private interest manipulate the law. He began flying around the country in 1998, giving as many as a hundred speeches a year at college campuses, and sparked the movement. It lead to the foundation of the first chapter of the Students for Free Culture at George Mason University.

In 1999, Lessig challenged the Bono Act, taking the case to the Supreme Court. Despite his firm belief in the victory as the Constitution’s plain language about “limited” copyright terms, Lessig only gained two dissenting votes, from Justices Stevens and Breyer.

In 2001, Lessig initiated Creative Commons, an alternative “some rights reserved” licensing system to the automatic “all rights reserved” copyright system. By 2008, more than 90 million works were licensed under CC, more than doubled since 2009.


The organization commonly associated with free culture is Creative Commons (CC), founded by Lawrence Lessig. CC promotes sharing creative works and diffusing ideas to produce cultural vibrance, scientific progress and business innovation.

The student organization Students for Free Culture is sometimes confusingly called "the Free Culture Movement", but that is not its official name. The organization is a subset of the greater movement. The first chapter was found in 1998 at George Mason University, and by 2008, the organization has twenty-six chapter nationwide.[5]

The free culture movement takes the ideals of the free software movement and extends them from the field of software to all cultural and creative works. Early in Creative Commons' life, Richard Stallman (the founder of the Free Software Foundation and the free software movement) supported the organization. He withdrew his support due to the introduction of several licenses including a developing nations and the sampling licenses[6] and later restored some support when Creative Commons retired those licenses.

Defining Freedom

Within the free culture movement, Creative Commons has been criticized for lacking standard of freedom.[7] Thus, some within the movement only consider a few Creative Commons licenses to actually be free based on the Definition of Free Cultural Works.[8] In February 2008, Creative Commons added an "approved for free cultural works" badge to its licenses which comply—Attribution and Attribution-ShareAlike.[9] Summaries of the licenses with restrictions on commercial use or derivative works do not have any special marks.


The free culture movement has been praised as the successful element to develop culture through creativity and innovation.

The prominent proponent of the movement is Lawrence Lessig who also founded the movement. Lessig is a law professor at Harvard wrote a book called Free Culture, which provides many arguments in favor of the free culture movement.

Lessig argues that current copyright laws have suppressed creativity and resulted in a read-only Internet culture where ones only consume contents, despite advanced technology has made creating and contributing to the culture easier. Lessig argues the embracing free culture can enhance the read/write culture development. He claims the arrival of Linux and other open source tools is the proof that such complex technologies can be produced not only under the copyright-tight, corporate control.[10]

Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales endorsed the expansion of the movement into new projects and countries: "I see a whole world of possibilities, like in the world of politics, where free culture can expand and grow."[11]

The most vocal criticism against the free culture movement comes from copyright proponents. Rick Carnes, the president of the Songwriters Guild of America, and Coley Hudgins, the executive director of Arts+Labs, an alliance of technology, claim that despite the free culture movement’s argue that copyright is “killing culture”, the movement itself and pirated media content it has created had damaged the quality of arts industry and the economic growth. [12]

In addition, some argue that the atmosphere of the copyright debate has also changed. Free culture may have once defended culture producers against corporations. But now free culture may hurt smaller culture-producers, like the “HOPE” poster controversy, when the artist Shepard Fairey appropriated Mannie Garcia’s artwork into his own while failing to provide attribution.[4]

Andrew Keen, the critic of Web 2.0, criticizes some of the Free Culture ideas in his book, Cult of the Amateur, describing Lessig as an "intellectual property communist".[13]

In news media industry, some blame free culture as the cause behind the decline of its market. However, scholars like Clay Shirky claim that the market itself, not free culture, is what is killing the journalism industry.[4]

See also


  1. ^ "What does a free culture look like?". Students of Free culture. Retrieved 2009-10-24.  
  2. ^ "What is free culture?". Students of Free culture. Retrieved 2009-10-24.  
  3. ^ Robert S. Boynton: The Tyranny of Copyright? The New York Times, January 25, 2004
  4. ^ a b c Quart, Alissa (2009). "Expensive Gifts", Columbia Journalism Review, 48(2).
  5. ^ Hayes, Christopher (2009). "Mr. Lessig Goes to Washington", Nation, 286(23).
  6. ^ interview for LinuxP2P (6 february 2006)
  7. ^ "Towards A Standard Of Freedom".  
  8. ^ "Definition of Free Cultural Works".  
  9. ^ "Approved for Free Cultural Works".  
  10. ^ Dix, John (2006). "Embracing the free culture movement", Network World, 23(33)
  11. ^ "Wikipedia's Wales touts 'free culture' movement".  
  12. ^ Carnes, Rick, and Coley Hudgins (2009). "COPYRIGHT IS CRUCIAL FOR CULTURE", Billboard, 121(31).
  13. ^ Keen, Andrew (May 16, 2006). Web 2.0; The second generation of the Internet has arrived. It's worse than you think. The Weekly Standard

External links


Study guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiversity

Welcome to the Wikiversity learning project for the Free Culture Movement. Participants in this project explore learning resources about the Free Culture Movement.




  • Discuss and ask questions about the free culture movement. See: Across the Wikiverse#Free culture.
  • Add additional content to Wikiversity about the free culture movement.
  • Make links to Wikiversity from the two Wikipedia pages listed above.

See also

Wikipedia-logo.png Run a search on Free culture movement at Wikipedia.

Libre - learning project about how we can make the distinction between free in the sense of "no cost" and "free to re-use".

External resources


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