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Free Culture or Culture for Free ?

- 3 minutes reading time
Free Culture or Culture for Free ?
The copyLeft logo, public domain

A couple of years ago, I’ve wrote an article about the Free Software licenses. But, since I’ve started to write and sell ebooks online, I’ve noticed something I was already aware of.

There is still a confusion between free and free. In English, free has two meaning :

A famous sentence regarding the Free Software is : “To understand the concept, you should think of “free” as in “free speech,” not as in “free beer.” “. This is a quote from the introduction of the Free Software Foundation definition.

In French, free has two specific words that avoid this confusion :

But, I’ve still noticed, and even had some questions, regarding why I’m selling my writings despite being licensed under Creative Commons BY-SA 4.0. Because for some people, it’s not “free culture”.

First, let’s clear the confusion right now : using a Free Culture license does not mean the creator could not earn money from their work nor selling them. Creative Commons ran a study case of 24 entities working with free license and earning profits in 2017.

The Free Culture is a movement, and has a definition regarding what is a Free Cultural Work or not. In this definition, four criteria has been identified :

Am I checking these boxes with my ebooks sold on online platforms ?


My book Le Patient Daniel opened by Calibre’s EPUB editor

So, am I Free Culture compatible or not ?

Maybe the first point could be a matter to debate and I should consider finding a way to ship the markdown sources with the epub file if it’s really necessary for a perfect compliance with this criteria. But I still have the restrictions of the online libraries platforms that won’t permit to do this. A possibility could be to add a mention in the copyright section of the book indicating the owner of the copy may request them. Because the license does not imply to deliver the source data to anyone : just to the person who received the work.

For the three other points, I check the boxes without any questions.

Is selling my ebooks against Free Culture ?

I don’t think so, because these licenses never implied the work do be delivered at no cost. This idea is, to me, a mislead.