Libre Knowledge

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Libre Knowledge definition:

  • Freedom 0: The freedom to use the work for any purpose.
  • Freedom 1: the freedom to study its mechanisms, to be able to modify and adapt it to their own needs.
  • Freedom 2: the freedom to make and distribute copies, in whole or in part so you can help others.
  • Freedom 3: the freedom to enhance and/or extend the work and share the results similarly.

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

A knowledge or learning resource is free if users have all of these freedoms.

(Say Libre)


"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) 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.)." (Say Libre)


Why it is better to use "Libre" rather than "Open"

"Open" implies one may look at the resources, like opening and reading a book. The possibility of restrictions is accepted, and one does not assume the freedom to adapt and engage with the resources and the community in a process of sharing and co-development. The value of such freedom is not expressed in the word "open". For this reason, we say "libre knowledge" and "libre learning resources". "Libre" disambiguates free. The term "free knowledge" is also acceptable as it highlights the extension of the philosophy and ethics of free software.

With respect to digital knowledge and learning resources, freedom to use, modify (localise), enhance, mix, copy and share is required for effective learning and collaborative knowledge generation (e.g. via social construction). This is particularly important for developing communities who need to localise and adapt the wealth of knowledge resources on the Internet for them to be useful. Freedom to help each other in this process and in generating new resources is essential.

While the debate around the terminology has not (yet) been as fierce in the learning and knowledge arenas as it has been in the software industry, the sooner we clarify the implications based on what we can learn from the software world, the more likely we are to pre-empt possible negative consequences and channel our energies in the same direction." (Say Libre)

Why the non-commercial use clause should be avoided

"One restriction is particularly popular in the OER communities: "non-commercial use only". This denies communities the freedom and opportunity to offer professional services to localise, enhance and disseminate the knowledge to people who need it. This is of particular importance for developing communities in respect of the type of knowledge required to enhance quality of life the need for localisation (e.g. know-how and knowlege pertaining to health, entrepreneurship, technical and vocational skills, the environment, etc.).

In some cases the fear is that others will profit at the expense of the authors. This fear is usually unfounded (see Lessig 2004). Most educators would not be making any profit. It is their job to prepare learning resources for their students. By sharing resources and making it possible for others to disseminate them, the impact is greater, and benefits of peer review and community contributions are likely. Everyone benefits significantly from many small contributions to the bottomless cooking pot of the knowledge commons (Ghosh, 2005)." (Say Libre)


Libre Creative Commons

"Among the Creative Commons licenses are a few which may be classified as "libre licenses" in line with the libre knowledge definition above:

  • ShareAlike (retired at version 1.0 by the Creative Commons due to "Inadequate demand")
  • Attribution-ShareAlike
  • Attribution

These state that users are free to use, adapt, mix and share unchanged or modified versions of the work. The first two ensure that the same applies to derived works. Attribution requires acknowledgement of previous contributors. In the case of Attribution, users may release their adaptations under a different license, potentially producing a non-free (attributed) version. The original remains free/libre - and may be adapted and shared accordingly." (Say Libre)

Non-free Creative Commons Licences

"The other Creative Commons version 3.0 licenses,

  • Attribution-NoDerivs
  • Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs
  • Attribution-NonCommercial
  • Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike,

are non-free with respect to the libre knowledge definition." (Say Libre)

More Information

  1. Libre; Libre Communities
  2. Open Knowledge
  3. Open Knowledge Foundation