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An open license or free license (licence in Commonwealth English) is the legal statement that allows free content and free software to be "free". This means "free" as in "freedom of speech" or "free to use it how you want". See the Freedom Defined wiki for more information.
The exact meaning may vary, but a common idea of an open license is one that requires attribution but otherwise lets people use the content in any way, including commercially, but requires them to share their modifications under the same license.
"Free" or "open" knowledge makes humanity wealthier. You and your organization will benefit from the development of free knowledge on Appropedia, Wikipedia and elsewhere.
Open content is free of cost - empowering those lacking in resources. It is also free to reuse, empowering innovators, researchers, educators, entrepreneurs - whoever can think of a use for this knowledge. It enables these people to easily share their own improved versions of the work.
In more detail, the main point of an open license is to tell people that they are free to use the content, under relatively few conditions:
- The most common condition is attribution - requiring that they acknowledge your work. (This may be just attribution to the wiki, so the individual contributor may not be credited. (For more, and to see ways to ensure more direct attribution, see CC:Attribution.)
- The next most common condition is Share Alike - that you will share, as long as the final product is also shared in the same way. This prevents someone from taking your work, adding something of their own, and then publishing it in a more restricted way, e.g. claiming copyright on their amendments.
Non-commercial licenses - not "free"
However, content with this license is not considered "free" by Freedom Defined (the free cultural works definition), or the Open Knowledge Definition and is not able to be used in a site such as Appropedia which uses a license allowing commercial use.
This may be a wise choice for personal photos, or in some cases for creative work that you may wish to make a profit from.
There are many free licenses, but the most common are:
- CC-BY-SA - Creative Commons, By Attribution, Share Alike
- CC-BY - Creative Commons, By Attribution.
- Public domain - not actually a license, this is the absence of any copyrights, license, or restriction of any kind.
(See also the list of licenses at opendefinition.org.)
- Appropedia:Make your content free
- Appropedia:Which free license should you use?
- An Introduction to Creative Commons
- It is also possible to make a profit from your work after you open-license it - after all, you are recognized and attributed as the author, and people are most likely to go to you when seeking (for example) a printed copy, or a further advice/consulting. See The Transition Handbook - free edit version for an example of this. By opening up use of the content, you may greatly increase readership and awareness, with benefits outweighing the rights that you "give up".