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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Libre Knowledge is knowledge which may be acquired, interpreted and applied freely, it can be re-formulated according to one's needs, and shared with others for community benefit.

The term refers to the cultural movement of Free/Libre knowledge inspired by the principles of free software, the success of peer production in the development of free software (and Wikipedia) and a conviction that knowledge should be accessible and sharable without restrictions.


Libre (or Free) Knowledge

Advocates of libre knowledge (aka free knowledge) believe that the freedom of knowledge is under threat on account of attempts to restrict or control sharing of information (or explicit knowledge) on the Internet. For this reason, a definition of libre knowledge was formulated based on the definition of free software by the Free Software Foundation which shares this concern:

Libre Knowledge is explicit knowledge released in such a way that users are free to read, listen to, watch, or otherwise experience it; to learn from or with it; to copy, adapt and use it for any purpose; and to share derived works similarly (as free knowledge) for the common good.

Users of libre knowledge are free to

(0) use the work for any purpose

(1) study its mechanisms, to be able to modify and adapt it to their own needs

(2) make and distribute copies, in whole or in part

(3) enhance and/or extend the work and share the result.

Freedoms 1 and 3 require Free file formats and free software as defined by the Free Software Foundation


Libre Resources

The term "libre resources" refers to resources represented on a device or medium such as files in an open/free format containing text, an image, sound, multimedia, etc. or combinations of these, accessible with free software, and released under a license which grants users the freedom to access, read, listen to, watch, or otherwise experience the resource; to learn with, copy, perform, adapt and use it for any purpose; and to contribute and share enhancements or derived works.

Such resources are central to movements associated with Free software, free culture, and free knowledge, etc., and are used by libre communities - for example, for learning (see libre learning below).

The libre manifesto indicates some of the values behind such movements.

Use of the term "Libre Resources" emerged from discussions of Free/Libre Knowledge as a generalisation.

Libre Learning

Knowledge and learning go hand-in hand. Libre Learning is (potentially collaborative, social constructionist learning) unfettered by overly restrictive licenses using Libre resources. The term is associated with visions such as "freedom to learn" - liberating education and learning - deemed appropriate in countries where the public educational systems are not able to meet all the needs, encouraging and enabling civil society to take the initiative and augment the public education systems.

See also: Wikiversity.

Historical Notes and References

It may be argued that the concepts of free/libre knowledge and non-free knowledge have been around ever since humans have been capable of communicating. Academic discourse on these concepts is not new, though in recent years the debate has become particularly heated with the advent of the Internet and the ease with which knowledge may be shared.

Below we list some relevant references and additional historical notes:

  • Freedom Charter - adopted at the Congress of the People, Kliptown, South Africa, on 26 June 1955.
  • 2002: a collection of essays by Richard Stallman was published which captures much of the philosophy of Libre Knowledge albeit in the software sense. [3]
  • Lawrence Lessig has published several books which discuss the tension between a desired free, read/write Internet culture and control via technical means. These include Free Culture[4], Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace[5], Code: Version 2.0[6] and The Future of Ideas[7].
  • 2007 Charlotte Hess and Elinor Ostrom edited a book called "Understanding Knowledge as a Commons: from theory to practice" which reflects current interest in this phenomenon and some of the history. [10]
  • 2007 Kim Tucker released the Say "Libre" essay clarifying use of this term in preference to "open" where applicable. [11]

Some of the discussions leading to the emergence of the ideas of "libre resources" (above) and libre communities occurred during workshops in a project originally called "Free Knowledge Communities", and later Libre Communities.

The primary concern was the need to provide access to learning resources for the developed world - resources which would inevitably need to be recontextualised and adapted for local use. It would also be beneficial if the recipients of such resources are free to adapt and distribute derived works without restriction.

The intent is to encourage people concerned with open content (etc.) to distinguish "open" from "free/libre", to understand Copyleft, and to license resources accordingly, to enable a "copy-modify, mix and share" (free or "read-write") culture and society. Discussions along these lines may be found in (for example) the forums and at conferences of the Open educational resources communities, discussions about Free software and free culture. These are likely to continue as the GNU General Public License and Creative Commons licenses evolve in response to contemporary issues associated with the freedom of users.

See also

External resources

Organisations Promoting Free/ Libre Knowledge

(implicitly or explicitly)


  1. ^ van Doren, M. 1954. Man's right to knowledge and the free use thereof. Columbia University, New York.
  2. ^ Fle3 announcement in November 2001 [1]
  3. ^ Gay, Joshua (ed). 2002: Free Software, Free Society: Selected Essays of Richard M. Stallman. Boston, Massachusetts: GNU Press. ISBN 1-882114-98-1. Also available over the web in PDF, Texinfo, and Postscript formats
  4. ^ Lessig, L. 2004. Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity. Penguin Books.
  5. ^ Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace (2000) (ISBN 978-0-465-03913-5, Basic Books, New York)
  6. ^ Code: Version 2.0 (2006) (ISBN 978-0-465-03914-2, Basic Books, New York)
  7. ^ The Future of Ideas (2001) (ISBN 978-0-375-50578-2, Random House, New York)
  8. ^ Coase's Penguin or Linux and The nature of the firm a paper by Yochai Benkler defining what is, and how Commons-Based Peer Production works, along with a long study of what motivates contributors.
  9. ^ Yochai Benkler (2006):The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom, Yale University Press.
  10. ^ Hess C and Ostrom E (eds). 2007. Understanding Knowledge as a Commons: from theory to practice. MIT Press, Cambridge Massachusetts.
  11. ^ Tucker KC. 2007. Say "Libre", and discussion venue:


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