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Culture Freedom Day – May 18, 2024

Culture Freedom Day is observed on the third Saturday of May every year and this year, it takes place on May 18. It aims to educate the world about the advantages of promoting free culture. The day also acts as a dedicated day and international platform for free culture artists to promote themselves. First coined by Lawrence Lessig in 2004, the free culture movement upholds the creation of art made available to others for free use, study, distribution, improvement, etc. The movement opposes practices restricting art from entering the public domain. Copyright extensions are examples of such practices.

History of Culture Freedom Day

Copyrights are ‘exclusive rights granted to the author or creator of an original work, including the right to copy, distribute, and adapt the work.’ The history of copyright began with the monopolies granted to book printers. The first ever copyright statute, the British Statute of Anne, was established as far back as 1710. While copyright initially only applied to books, it gradually covered a wide range of works like paintings, photographs, sound recordings, and films.

The first recorded instance of the right to copy comes from ancient Ireland. It involved the Cathach, the oldest existing Irish manuscript and the earliest example of Irish writing. A dispute arose over ownership of a copy of the book. The reigning King declared that ‘to every cow belongs her calf; therefore to every book belongs its copy.’ As a consequence, the Battle of Cúl Dreimhne took place.

Today, copyright laws protect a vast pool of works from being used by the general populace without benefiting the individuals or organizations that hold the right. Not everyone agrees with the concept, though. An example is the free culture movement coined by Lawrence Lessig in 2004.

Culture Freedom Day timeline

560 A.D.
The Battle of Cúl Dreimhne

Following a disagreement over the ownership of a copy of a book, the Battle of Cúl Dreimhne takes place.

Statute of Anne

The British Statute of Anne is published.

Whole Earth Catalog

The ‘Whole Earth Catalog’ is published, coining the slogan, ‘information wants to be free.’

Free Culture Movement

Lawrence Lessig coins the term ‘free culture.’

Culture Freedom Day FAQs

What do you mean by ‘free culture?’

‘Free culture’ believes art should be created and made available to others for free use, study, distribution, enhancement, etc.

What is meant by Creative Commons?

Creative Commons is an international non-profit organization that provides free licenses to creators for use when releasing their work to the public.

Who uses Creative Commons?

Any creator who wants to give others the right to access, share, and build upon their work can use a C.C. license.

How to Observe Culture Freedom Day

  1. Learn about copyright

    To better understand why people criticize copyright laws, try to learn a bit about them. You will find plenty of resources online.

  2. Read “Free Culture”

    Read the book that started it all, “Free Culture” by Lawrence Lessig. You can download it for free.

  3. Talk about it on social media

    Help your favorite free-culture artists on this day. Spread the word about Culture Freedom Day on social media.

5 Interesting Facts About Copyright

  1. Rights over your work

    A creator owns the copyright from the second they create their work.

  2. Ideas

    You cannot copyright an idea.

  3. Public domain

    Works that are free to use for anyone are said to be in the public domain.

  4. Fair use

    The use of copyrighted material for reporting or teaching is an exception to copyright protection.

  5. Copyrighted homework

    The concept of copyright extends to students having rights over their schoolwork.

Why Culture Freedom Day is Important

  1. It draws attention to the misuse of copyright

    Practices like the extension of copyright and the suppression of misuse severely restrict access to information. Culture Freedom Day highlights that.

  2. It highlights a counter-opinion

    While those that support current copyright laws exist within the mainstream, Culture Freedom Day highlights a counter opinion. Learn more about these opinions on this day.

  3. It highlights the importance of easily accessible knowledge

    The baseline of the free-culture movement is the belief that art and certain kinds of information should be accessible to all instead of existing behind paywalls. Culture Freedom Day highlights this importance very well.

Culture Freedom Day dates

2022May 21Saturday
2023May 20Saturday
2024May 18Saturday
2025May 17Saturday
2026May 16Saturday

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