A free license or open license is a license which allows others to reuse another creator’s work as they wish. Without a special license, these uses are normally prohibited by copyright, patent or commercial license. Most free licenses are worldwide, royalty-free, non-exclusive, and perpetual (see copyright durations). Free licenses are often the basis of crowdsourcing and crowdfunding projects.
The invention of the term "free license" and the focus on the rights of users were connected to the sharing traditions of the hacker culture of the 1970s public domain software ecosystem, the social and political free software movement (since 1980) and the open source movement (since the 1990s). These rights were codified by different groups and organizations for different domains in Free Software Definition, Open Source Definition, Debian Free Software Guidelines, Definition of Free Cultural Works and The Open Definition. These definitions were then transformed into licenses, using the copyright as legal mechanism. Ideas of free/open licenses have since spread into different spheres of society.
Open source, free culture (unified as free and open-source movement), anticopyright, Wikimedia Foundation projects, public domain advocacy groups and pirate parties are connected with free and open licenses.
Prior to 1998, Free Software referred either to the Free Software Foundation (and the watchful, micromanaging eye of Stallman) or to one of thousands of different commercial, avocational, or university-research projects, processes, licenses, and ideologies that had a variety of names: sourceware, freeware, shareware, open software, public domain software, and so on. The term Open Source, by contrast, sought to encompass them all in one movement.