Freedom's Standard Advanced

(C) Copyright 2007 -- Benjamin Mako Hill
Distributed under the terms of the
Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike License

Presentation on 2007-08-03 at Wikimania 2007 in Taipei, Taiwan


These are talk notes. They are not a prepared paper or even a prepared talk. Please take care before quoting them and contact me to clarify any thing that is unclear.

What is Free Culture?


2 minutes

We know what free software is because Richard, and the Debian project, and thousands of volunteers have told us. It's quite simple:

Freedoms 0-3: run, share, modify, collaborate

But what is free culture?

The two central visionary entities in the free culture world are, of course, Lawrence Lessig and Creative Commons.

The free culture book says:

A free culture is not a culture without property; it is not a culture in which artists don't get paid. A culture without property, or in which creators can't get paid is anarchy, not freedom. Anarchy is not what I advance here.

Instead, the free culture that I defend in this book is a balance between anarchy and control. (emphasis mine)

So what is free culture?

Creative Commons has described what they do as free culture. They describe what they do as: "some rights reserved"

Larry says: "the freedom to choose how a work is licensed."

Stop and think about that.

Pinpointing the Instrumental


6 minutes

Now remember free software. Freedom's 0-3.

In other words: "essential rights are unreservable"

Where does this disconnect come from? After all:

And therein, perhaps, lies part of the disconnect.

The GPL is a great license, absolutely. But the GPL, like the software we write, is an instrument to create create and protect freedom. Not an ends within itself.

An instrument.

Here's a story to illustrate this:

In some of the GPLv3 debate there's been a phrase spread around, by people here and by others and probably even by myself that says, "the GPL is the constitution of the free software movement."

Now, a constitution is not just a law. It is a law to which other laws at held. It sets the limits of what is and is not legal. A constitution lays out the principles.

The GPL does not do that. The FSD does.

Free software is not a law firm, if it is a social movement. Like freedom movements, we want freedom. We're Utopians.

We can think about wikis in the same way. Wikis are not great because they are wikis. They are great because they change people's relationships to power and control to knowledge.

They are not about efficiency or we be out changing lightbulbs in factories.

Wikis, like licenses, are useful because they empower people to take control of their information environment. They change authority, they spread and protect freedom. But they are not freedom itself.

In our utopia, everyone:

  1. Has the freedom to run their software for any purpose;
  2. We all know the drill ...

Eben tells us not to stop fighting until we're free. But that only makes sense because we know when we'll be free.

We will succeed because we have effective instruments: technologies like wikis and licenses like the FSF and CC licenses. But these, alone, are not success. It is by their effects that we will measure success.

What's The Difference


11 minutes

As I mentioned earlier, free culture:

So, free culture is different than free software. What's the problem?

The results of not adopting a vision are that:

In short: legal and ethical incompatibilities and inconsistencies, no strong united push for maximizing freedom.

Remember Shareware?


15 minutes

Do people here remember shareware?

Where did it go?

We have been united by a clear, shared vision and goal around which a movement could be built. Even where don't agree on the reasons, we agree on the definitions (DFSG, Open Source Definition)

The result, ultimately, is more free software and more freedom. The fact that you're doing free software today and the fact that the movement succeeded is part of the reason that others looked to it for inspiration and started everything you see today.

Our Goal


18 minutes

So we want to build a social movement like the one that has brought us free software...

But, to do that, we need to know what freedom is. Where we are going. We need a definition.

Now, perhaps definition is a bad term. We really mean a goal. We need an idea of what that utopia is going to look like.

Through providing definitions, we seek to:

Of course, we also want a strong and symbiotic relationship with existing players including Creative Commons and

Who Gets To Define Free Culture


22 minutes

Who gets to decide what free culture is? Or who doesn't?

My answer (after thinking) is controversial: Anyone!

I've been interested in waiting for someone else. I edit Wikipedia a lot and I do art projects 3-4 times a year, but I don't speak for all artists.

But wait, do FSF members speak for all software programmers?

It's not clear looking at this room but free software is still a pretty crazy idea. But 5 years ago, it was way crazier. There are more of us today than there were 5 years ago, and 10 years ago.

The point:

We're not right because we're popular or because most programmers agree.

We are are right because we have made a very an ethically correct argument that software must be free. Not even everyone believes it. And not everyone who uses free software believes it, but it's why.

Our Definition


27 minutes

So a small group of Wikipedians and hackers and artists and musicians (and a lawyer) decided put out something and have a discussion and argument about it. Our definition might not win but it's a good place to start.

Unsurprising, we ended up using a wiki. :)

The conclusion, the Definition of Free Cultural Works, that we've come to argues that these are essential:

Free cultural works must also:

Therefore the FCED encompasses existing definitions like Open Source/Free Software Definition.

The keys issues that we're not talking about in the definition involve:

Our History and The Future


32 minutes

Our work so far:

Things in progress (and ways you can help):

So I want to end this talk with a call for help. If these are things believe in, you, in this room, are the people who can make it happen.

If you disagree with our definition. We want your help:

If you do agree. We want your help:

We, together, can build a real social movement for freedom. Erik Möller and myself do not a social movement make but this room has the vision and the power and the people.

We are already building a free world. Now lets let people know why.


35 minutes