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Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Steal This, Please

FEE encourages you to steal from

You’ll find this legend at the bottom of every web-page:

“This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except for material where copyright is reserved by a party other than FEE.”

This license entitles you to take anything on the site that belongs to FEE and republish it, translate it, broadcast it, print it, give it away–just acknowledge FEE as the source and note if you’ve made any changes.

By doing this, FEE is a leader in the “sharing economy” that has become a trend among free-market non-profits and beyond.

Does this mean you can take the FEE translation of Bastiat’s The Law, print up 100,000 copies, and hand them out to every high-school senior in your state? Sure, so long as you give attribution to FEE. 

What if you’re a commercial site and earn advertising revenue from our content? More power to you!

This idea is not new at FEE. Since 1946, following the lead of our founder Leonard E. Read, FEE has granted permission to republish (with attribution) anything that wasn’t subject to a license agreement with a third party. By posting our policy conspicuously, we remove the hesitation that people might have otherwise felt about taking our stuff.

We (and the freedom movement at large) gain two major benefits from sharing.

First, other people accomplish FEE’s mission at no cost to us. We’ve lost count of the languages that FEE content has been translated into, without our hiring a translator. We’ve lost count of the websites—including commercial sites like Newsweek—that have carried our content to their readers, giving us free distribution, public relations and referrals back to

Second, this sort of generosity is contagious. We have arrangements with dozens of sites to republish pieces that we believe would be of particular interest to our youth audience. As a result, we now obtain more than half of our content for free. 

Unfortunately, while the content may be free, the distribution is not! It requires an editor to curate it, a social media manager to display it, and a web developer to upgrade the site to accommodate the explosion in traffic that we’ve experienced (from 280,000 visitors in February 2015 to 767,000 visitors this past February). 

If you like the direction the movement is going with shared content, please contribute to moving it forward through an investment in FEE’s work and mission.

  • Wayne Olson is the Chairman of FEE's Board of Trustees and a former executive director of the Foundation for Economic Education.