Freedom has been one of the essential concepts of the Internet from just about day one. As it was unveiled to the world just how amazingly powerful this technology, with all of its potential, advocates began campaigning that freedom should reign over the Internet. Freedom from censorship, yes, but also freedom of the content itself. This has led to the free content concept.

The idea is that ideas, innovations, articles, essays, images, video, games, software utilities, etc., should all be made free on the Internet. Supporters of the free content concept will often oppose the commercialization that has taken over many parts of the Internet, believing that everything that exists on the Internet should be free.

In order to support the idea of free content we must have a working definition of just what free content is. There are four basic freedoms which are considered an essential part of the definition of free content.

The first of these is the freedom to actually use and or perform the work in both public and private settings. If it is a video, for example, it must be free not only for an individual to watch, but if they wish to show it to, say, a classroom this must also be allowed.

Second on the list is the freedom to study the content and to apply information learned. What this means in a nutshell is that the originator of the free content cannot prohibit what we call “reverse engineering,” taking something apart, figuring out how it works then changing it to do something else. This is a freedom that is not even granted with many commercially purchased products and there have been several high profile court cases involving the use of reverse engineering.

Third on the list of these basic freedoms is the freedom of distribution. This distribution can take any form: selling, trading, distributed as a part of a larger work, any way that it can be distributed. This is seen as a part of the very heart of what makes content free and what makes content not free.

Last on the list of essential freedoms that define free content is the freedom to create derivative works. This involves any sort of change made to the content, either physically, structurally, or anything else. This freedom must be completely unlimited in order for it to quality as truly free content.

One big part of the free content concept is that of open-source. Usually used in reference to software, it involves applications and games where not only the application itself is freely distributed but also the base source code, allowing anyone to develop and manipulate this source code in the workings of the product. This is often used in the collaborative development of programs and even operating systems. Popular operating system Linux is an open source operating system.

One group that has sought to better define free content as well as other sorts of licenses on the Web is Creative Commons. This is a group that seeks to aid those who would publish on the Internet define the licenses through which the work is distributed. They have multiple licenses available, including free licenses which declare the work available to all, free of any restrictions.