Free/Libre Culture Glossary

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This glossary has incorporated definitions from Barcelona Charter for Innovation Creativity and Access to Knowledge - Libre Interpretation. This one is for easier editing of individual entries and may be expanded independently.



In general, this term refers to physical access to ICT infrastructure. However, in this document, it is used synonymously with universal access (below).

Berne Convention

The Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, usually known as the Berne Convention, is an international agreement governing copyright, which was first accepted in Berne, Switzerland in 1886.


The term broadband can have different meanings in different contexts. In this document, broadband generally refers to high capacity Internet access. The text refers to Recommendation ITU-i113 which defines broadband as a “transmission capacity that is faster than primary rate Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) at 1.5 or 2.0 Megabits per second (Mbits)”.
The term's meaning has undergone substantial shifts as advances in technology permit higher and higher capacities.

Closed standard

A closed standard is a file format, protocol or program which has wide public acceptance, but which does not comply with the requirements for a free/libre or open standard. Examples include file formats or protocols whose specifications are not publicly available, software whose source code is not available, and patent-encumbered technologies. Closed standards are typically developed by private companies with limited public or even industry participation.


The Commons refers to resources that are collectively owned.[1] This can include everything from land to software.[2] The process by which the commons are transformed into private property is often termed enclosure.
In this document, we refer to the digital cultural and knowledge commons, which consist of Internet resources (e.g. texts, sound or video clips, software, etc.) which may be used for any purpose, adapted and shared for collective benefit. Associated communities self-organise to manage the commons, respecting participation, inclusion, transparency and long-term sustainability.

Commons-based peer production

Commons-based peer production is a term coined by Harvard Law School professor Yochai Benkler to describe a new model of economic production in which the creative energy of large numbers of people is coordinated (usually with the aid of the Internet) into large, meaningful projects mostly without traditional hierarchical organization (and often, but not always, without or with decentralized financial compensation). Often used interchangeably with the term social production, Benkler compares commons-based peer production to firm production (where a centralized decision process decides what has to be done and by whom) and market-based production (when tagging different prices to different jobs serves as an attractor to anyone interested in doing the job).

Computer Implemented Invention

"an invention whose implementation involves the use of a computer, computer network or other programmable apparatus, the invention having one or more features which are realised wholly or partly by means of a computer program."[3]


Co-opetition occurs when companies work together for parts of their business where they do not believe they have competitive advantage, and where they believe they can share common costs.


A copyleft license is a free license that requires all further distribution with or without modifications to be made under the same conditions.

De facto standard

A de facto standard is a custom, convention, product, or system that has achieved a dominant position by public acceptance or market forces (such as early entrance to the market). De facto standards have not been through rigorous inclusive and participative standardisation processes, and therefore cannot qualify as open or libre standards. Also see Standard (below) for a definition of technical standard.

Digital Restrictions Management (DRM)

In this document we this term as a substitute for Digital Rights Management, a generic term for access control technologies that can be used by hardware manufacturers, publishers, copyright holders and individuals to try to impose limitations on the usage of digital content and devices.


In economics, disintermediation is the removal of intermediaries in a supply chain: "cutting out the middleman".


Education, in its broadest sense is any act or experience that has a formative effect on the mind, character or physical ability of an individual. In its technical sense education is the process by which society deliberately transmits its accumulated knowledge, skills and values from one generation to another.


See social equity below.


Firmware is software that internally controls various electronic devices.

FLOSS (Free / Libre and Open Source Software)

An acronym covering both free software and open source software. The ethical foundations of the free software definition distinguish it from the open source definition which is grounded in the efficiency of the associated software development methodology and acceptability of the term "open source" in the software industry.

Free cultural works

See libre cultural works below.

Free culture movement

The free culture movement is a social movement that promotes the freedom to distribute and modify creative works, using the Internet as well as other media for collective benefit. The movement consists of a variety of communities (e.g. free software, free knowledge and free art) who value inclusivity, transparency, social equity, social solidarity and sharing.
The movement objects to overly restrictive copyright and [patent laws which they argue hinder creativity and lead to a "permission culture", rather than a free culture.

Free file format

See libre file format below.

Free knowledge

See libre knowledge below. Also see the definition of libre cultural works below which is essentially equivalent.

Free licence

See Libre licence below.

Free software

See software libre.


Interoperability is the capacity of the information systems, and the procedures to which they support, to share data, export functionality and to possibility to the exchange of information and knowledge between them and their users.

Level playing field

A level playing field is a concept about fairness, not that each player has an equal chance to succeed, but that they all play by the same set of rules. A metaphorical playing field is said to be level if no external interference affects the ability of the players to compete fairly. Although some may view "government interference" to slant the field in reality the level playing field is created and guaranteed by the implementation of rules and regulations. Building codes, material specifications, Open Standards and zoning create a starting point, a minimum standard, --- a "level playing field".


Free as in freedom (as opposed the other meaning of 'free' in English, gratis, free of charge). Specifically, in this document, the adjective implies all the freedoms associated with free software and libre resources: freedom to make copies, to modify and share unmodified or modified versions, and to use them for any purpose.

Libre cultural works

Free Cultural Works are defined as works or expressions which can be freely studied, applied, copied and/or modified, by anyone, for any purpose. It also describes certain permissible restrictions that respect or protect these essential freedoms. The definition distinguishes between free works, and free licenses which can be used to legally protect the status of a free work. The definition itself is not a license; it is a tool to determine whether a work or license should be considered "free."

Libre file format

A libre file format is an open file format which is (additionally) not encumbered by any copyrights, patents, trademarks or other restrictions so that anyone is free to use it for any purpose.

Libre hardware

Hardware that is designed and offered in the same manner as software libre. In this document we are referring to computer and networking components.

Libre knowledge

Free/Libre Knowledge can be acquired, interpreted and applied freely, it can be re-formulated according to one's needs, and shared with others for community benefit. In today's world, where knowledge may be captured and shared electronically, this freedom is not automatically preserved, and we elaborate this definition for explicit knowledge:
(explicit) Free/Libre Knowledge is 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 benefit of the community.
Representations of free knowledge must be conveniently accessible for modification and sharing. For example, using Free software and Free file formats.
"Explicit knowledge" is knowledge captured on some medium, usually in a form representable on a computer (e.g. text, sound, video, animation, executable program, etc.).
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 Knowledge Definition

Libre knowledge resource

A libre resource which holds knowledge.

Libre license or free license

A libre license is a license which grants users the freedom to read, listen to, watch, or otherwise experience the particular work; to learn from or with it; to copy, adapt and use it for any purpose; and to share derived works for the benefit of the community.
Libre licenses include:
Libre License
More on free licenses at

Libre music

Music released under a libre licence. Also referred to as "free music" when the context provides the correct meaning of "free" (free as in freedom).

Libre resource

A libre resource is a (typically digital) resource (such as text, source code, an image, sound, multimedia, etc. or combinations of these) represented on a device or medium in a free/open file format, which is accessible and modifiable 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.

Libre software

See software libre.

Libre standard (or free standard)

A libre standard is a standard whose specification is publicly available. Users of a libre standard have the same freedoms associated with software libre (below), and the freedom to participate in its development process. The standardisation process typically requires a complete free software reference implementation which demonstrates that it is implementable and renders it usable. A libre standard is not patent-encumbered.

Net neutrality

A principle proposed for user access networks participating in the Internet that advocates no restrictions on content, sites, or platforms, or on the kinds of equipment that may be attached, or on the modes of communication allowed, provided such communication does not significantly degrade other traffic.

Open access

Three initiatives in particular have helped grow Open Access - the Budapest Open Access Initiative, the Bethesda Statement on Open Access Publishing, and the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities, - and are recognised as historical, defining moments in the growth of this movement. There are several definitions of Open Access, see for an introduction and an extensive overview. However, the main requirements for a contribution to be Open Access are:
  1. it removes all price barriers for the users to access it (given the user has an Internet connection) and
  2. it removes enough permission barriers to support all the uses customary in legitimate scholarship. The only constraints an author can pose should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited. These requirements can be defined more precisely as follows.
Open Access contributions are those works that satisfy two conditions:
  1. The author(s) and right holder(s) of such contributions grant(s) to all users a free, irrevocable, worldwide, right of access to, and a license to copy, use, distribute, transmit and display the work publicly and to make and distribute derivative works, in any digital medium for any responsible purpose, subject to proper attribution of authorship (community standards will continue to provide the mechanism for enforcement of proper attribution and responsible use of the published work, as they do now), whether in print or online.
  1. A complete version of the work and all supplemental materials, including a copy of the permission as stated above, in an appropriate standard electronic format is deposited (and thus published) in at least one online repository using suitable technical standards (such as the Open Archive definitions) that is supported and maintained by an academic institution, scholarly society, government agency, or other well-established organization that seeks to enable open access, unrestricted distribution, interoperability, and long-term archiving.

Open Educational Resources (OER)

OER are learning materials that can be freely used, modified and redistributed. They should be published under a free license, be available in an open standard format and be free of DRM or other restricting devices.

Open file format

An open file format is a file format whose specification is available to the public. The specification is typically maintained by a standards organisation which engages with the relevant industry entities and runs a transparent, participative process to develop the standard specification. Also see libre file format (above).

Open knowledge

The Open Knowledge Definition sets out principles to define the 'open' in open knowledge. The term knowledge is used broadly and it includes all forms of data, content such as music, films or books as well any other type of information.
In the simplest form the definition can be summed up in the statement that "A piece of knowledge is open if you are free to use, modify, and redistribute it". For details read the latest version of the full definition.

Open source software

Open source doesn't just mean access to the source code. The distribution terms of open-source software must comply with the following criteria:
  1. Free Redistribution: The license shall not restrict any party from selling or giving away the software as a component of an aggregate software distribution containing programs from several different sources. The license shall not require a royalty or other fee for such sale.
  2. Source Code: The program must include source code, and must allow distribution in source code as well as compiled form. Where some form of a product is not distributed with source code, there must be a well-publicized means of obtaining the source code for no more than a reasonable reproduction cost preferably, downloading via the Internet without charge. The source code must be the preferred form in which a programmer would modify the program. Deliberately obfuscated source code is not allowed. Intermediate forms such as the output of a preprocessor or translator are not allowed.
  3. Derived Works: The license must allow modifications and derived works, and must allow them to be distributed under the same terms as the license of the original software.
  4. Integrity of The Author's Source Code: The license may restrict source-code from being distributed in modified form only if the license allows the distribution of "patch files" with the source code for the purpose of modifying the program at build time. The license must explicitly permit distribution of software built from modified source code. The license may require derived works to carry a different name or version number from the original software.
  5. No Discrimination Against Persons or Groups: The license must not discriminate against any person or group of persons.
  6. No Discrimination Against Fields of Endeavour: The license must not restrict anyone from making use of the program in a specific field of endeavour. For example, it may not restrict the program from being used in a business, or from being used for genetic research.
  7. Distribution of License: The rights attached to the program must apply to all to whom the program is redistributed without the need for execution of an additional license by those parties.
  8. License Must Not Be Specific to a Product: The rights attached to the program must not depend on the program's being part of a particular software distribution. If the program is extracted from that distribution and used or distributed within the terms of the program's license, all parties to whom the program is redistributed should have the same rights as those that are granted in conjunction with the original software distribution.
  9. License Must Not Restrict Other Software: The license must not place restrictions on other software that is distributed along with the licensed software. For example, the license must not insist that all other programs distributed on the same medium must be open-source software.
  10. License Must Be Technology-Neutral: No provision of the license may be predicated on any individual technology or style of interface.

Open standard

There are various definitions of Open Standards, such as the definitions in the European Commission's European Interoperability Framework (EIF), the motion B 103 of the Danish Parliament, the definition by Bruce Pehrens, the definition developed by the SELF Consortium, the one by the Spanish Estandares Abiertos, the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure's recommendations on the EIF 2.0 and the Free Knowledge Institute. Aligned with the above initiatives, we understand Open Standards as follows.
The following are the minimal characteristics that a specification and its attendant documents must have in order to be considered an open standard:
  1. The standard is adopted and will be maintained by a not-for-profit organisation, and its ongoing development occurs on the basis of an open decision-making procedure available to all interested parties (consensus protection of privacy in the electronic communications sector or majority decision etc.).
  2. The standard has been published and the standard specification document is available either freely or at a nominal charge. It must be permissible to all to copy, distribute and use it for no fee or at a nominal fee.
  3. The intellectual property - i.e. patents possibly present - of (parts of) the standard is made irrevocably available on a royalty-free basis.
  4. There are no constraints on the re-use of the standard.
  5. However, the first condition does not have to be fulfilled in the case that a complete reference implementation of the specification exists in Free Software (a.k.a Open Source or Libre Software), i.e. under a license approved by either the FSF or OSI.

P2P (Peer To Peer)

P2P (Peer To Peer) refers to a network architecture in which each node in the network may communicate directly with any other without having to go through a central hub. The nodes may share resources such as disk storage space, processing power and bandwidth). One advantage of this architecture is the possibility of distributing the load when transferring many large files potentially to more than one destination in the network. Bottlenecks in the network are reduced as parts of files find their way to their destination(s) via different routes. The parts are reassembled on arrival.
"Peer-to-peer file sharing networks have inspired new structures and philosophies in other areas of human interaction. In such social contexts, peer-to-peer as a meme refers to the egalitarian social networking that is currently emerging throughout society, enabled by Internet technologies in general."

Paris Accord

The Paris Accord is an ongoing effort to negotiate an agreement between creative communities and the public. Such an agreement would include recognition of (and suggestions for improving) (1) access to and (2) income for the knowledge goods produced by creative communities.


See Sofware patent (below) and Computer implemented invention (above).

RAND standard

A RAND standard is a standard developed under RAND licensing conditions. Reasonable and Non Discriminatory Licensing (RAND) is a term for a type of licensing typically used during standardisation processes. The normal case is that when joining the standardisation body, companies agree that if they receive any patents on technologies which become essential to the standard then they agree to allow other groups attempting to implement the standard to use those patents and they agree that the charges for those patents shall be reasonable. RAND licenses allow a competitive market to develop between multiple companies making products which implement a standard.

Recognition of prior learning

Standards and procedures to assess and evaluate knowledge acquired by means other than formal education or certified training courses, including work/life experience and self-learning with libre knowledge resources, etc.


Rivalrous goods are goods whose consumption by one consumer prevents simultaneous consumption by other consumers. In contrast, nonrivalrous goods may be consumed by one consumer without preventing simultaneous consumption by others. Digital resources (or goods) are by nature non-rivalrous as identical copies can be.


A legal remedy (also judicial relief) is the means with which a court of law, usually in the exercise of civil law jurisdiction, enforces a right, imposes a penalty, or makes some other court order to impose its will.


Services include human actions to 'service' the needs of fellow citizens. These may be gratis or professional services such as training, support, custom software development, etc. 'Services' also refers to network or web services which are automated services delivered by computer programs via the web or virtual private networks (etc.). These involve interaction among computers and humans.

Social equity

Social Equity implies fair access to livelihood, education, and resources; full participation in the political and cultural life of the Community; and self-determination in meeting Fundamental Needs.

Social production

In this document we use the term “social production” as a synonym for commons-based peer production (above).

Social solidarity

Social solidarity refers to the integration, and degree and type of integration, shown by a society or group with people and their neighbors[4]. It refers to the ties in a society - social relations - that bind people to one another. This document emphasises the importance of freedom to help one's neighbours and community with libre resources to achieve social and other goals.

Software libre/free software

Software libre is software for which users are free to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software. More precisely, as a user you have four essential freedoms:
  • The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0).
  • The freedom to study how the program works, and change it to make it do what you wish (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
  • The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2).
  • The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements (and modified versions in general) to the public, so that the whole community benefits (freedom 3). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.

Software Patent

A patent intended to prevent others from using some programming technique.
There is intense debate over the extent to which software patents should be granted, if at all.


In this document we mean "social solidarity", an ethic of collaboration in freedom, recognising our interconnectedness and interdependence.

Software auditing

Auditing of software includes the revision of code, the modification of code, the compilation of code and the execution of the code. Auditing of software must include the auditing of the tools on which such software is based (compilers, libraries, operative systems on which it runs, etc.)


In this charter, the term refers to technical standards. A technical standard is an established norm or requirement. It is usually a formal document that establishes uniform engineering or technical criteria, methods, processes and practices.
Also see: closed standard, de facto standard, libre standard, open standard, and RAND standard.

Sui generis database right

In European Union law, a database right is a legal right, introduced in 1996. Database rights are specifically coded (i.e. sui generis, or standalone) laws on the copying and dissemination of information in computer databases.


Sustainability, in a broad sense, is the capacity to endure. In ecology, the word describes how biological systems remain diverse and productive over time. For humans it is the potential for long-term maintenance of wellbeing, which in turn depends on the wellbeing of the natural world and the responsible use of natural resources.

Technological Neutrality

Technological neutrality is the right of the citizens and the administrations to not be discriminated because its rightful choosing of IT applications when these applications use open standards to interoperate.

Three Step Test

Members shall confine limitations and exceptions to exclusive rights to certain special cases which do not conflict with a normal exploitation of the work and do not unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the rights holder.

Universal access

Accessible to all irrespective of social class, educational level, language, ethnicity, background or physical challenges.

Vested interest

A special interest in protecting or promoting that which is to one's own personal advantage.

  1. Reclaiming the Commons, David Bollier, Boston Review, 2003
  2. 'The Commons', Free Software Magazine
  3. Computer-Implemented Inventions (CII) cited at (2009/12/7).
  4. Collins Dictionary of Sociology, p621.