Moving to Freedom, .Org(on)

Free Culture (Briefly)

The free culture movement, according to a recent Wikipedia revision, is “a social movement that promotes the freedom to distribute and modify creative works, using the Internet as well as other media. The movement objects to overly restrictive copyright laws, or completely reject the concepts of copyright and intellectual property, which many members of the movement also argue hinder creativity.” Also: “The free culture movement takes the ideals of the free software movement and extends them from the field of software to all cultural and creative works.”

That sounds like a good start at defining free culture, and is something I agree with. Copyright is a privilege that has been over-extended and is abused by many of those who hold copyright on artifacts of our culture. I am very much in favor of creative people earning rewards for their work if it is valued by others, but I don’t think the way to do this is to grant exclusive rights to the work for 100+ years.

Industries that rely on the intellectual monopolies of copyright and patents will have to adapt. There will be losers in the transition to a world of decriminalized file sharing (non-commercial, at least), but that isn’t a reason to keep the old ways. Effective copyright enforcement would require an intolerable control regime over our personal computing devices, and would take away precious freedom, digital and otherwise. And consider the effect on privacy:

File-sharing occurs whenever one individual sends a file to another. The only way to even try to limit this process is to monitor all communication between ordinary people. Despite the crackdown on Napster, Kazaa and other peer-to-peer services over the past decade, the volume of file-sharing has grown exponentially. Even if the authorities closed down all other possibilities, people could still send copyrighted files as attachments to e-mails or through private networks. If people start doing that, should we give the government the right to monitor all mail and all encrypted networks? Whenever there are ways of communicating in private, they will be used to share copyrighted material. If you want to stop people doing this, you must remove the right to communicate in private. There is no other option. Society has to make a choice.

—Christian Engstrom, “Copyright laws threaten our online freedom” (

Question copyright! Check out this great essay by Karl Fogel about the history of copyright and the promise of a post-copyright world. article is behind a paywall, unfortunately: