RANTIFESTO

Adapted from a talk and slide show I presented at the Open Knowledge Conference in Berlin on July 1, 2011. –NP

Why are the Freedoms guaranteed for Free Software not guaranteed for Free Culture?

Free software is a matter of the users’ freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software. More precisely, it means that the program’s users have the four essential freedoms:

  • The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0).
  • The freedom to study how the program works, and change it to make it do what you wish (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
  • The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2).
  • The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others (freedom 3). By doing this you can give the whole community a chance to benefit from your changes. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.

The Free Software Definition

These are the Four Freedoms of Free Software. They are foundational principles, and they are exactly right. They have served and continue to serve the Free Software Movement very well. They place the user’s freedom ahead of all other concerns. Free Software is a principled movement, but Free Culture is not – at least not so far. Why?

1. The No Derivatives (-ND) Restriction

If you tinker with software, you can improve it. You can also break it or make it worse, but the Freedom to Tinker is one of the foundational 4 Freedoms of Free Software. Your software may also be used for purposes you don’t like, used by “bad people,” or even used against you; the Four Freedoms wisely counsel us to GET OVER IT.
Unfortunately, The Free Software Foundation does not extend “Freedom to Tinker” to Culture:

Cultural works released by the Free Software Foundation come with “No Derivatives” restrictions. They rationalize it here:

Works that express someone’s opinion—memoirs, editorials, and so on—serve a fundamentally different purpose than works for practical use like software and documentation. Because of this, we expect them to provide recipients with a different set of permissions (notice how users are now called “recipients,” and their Freedoms are now called “permissions” –NP): just the permission to copy and distribute the work verbatim. (link)

The problem with this is that it is dead wrong. You do not know what purposes your works might serve others. You do not know how works might be found “practical” by others. To claim to understand the limits of “utility” of cultural works betrays an irrational bias toward software and against all other creative work. It is anti-Art, valuing software above the rest of culture. It says coders alone are entitled to Freedom, but everyone else can suck it. Use of -ND restrictions is an unjustifiable infringement on the freedom of others.

For example, here I have violated the Free Software Foundation’s No-Derivatives license:

The Four Freedoms of Free Culture:

1. The freedom to run, view, hear, read, play, perform, or otherwise attend to the Work;
2. The freedom to study, analyze, and dissect copies of the Work, and adapt it to your needs;
3. The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor;
4. The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others. By doing this you can give the whole community a chance to benefit from your changes.
(link)

Without permission, I’ve created a derivative work: the Four Freedoms of Free Culture. Although I violated FSF’s No-Derivatives license, they violated Freedoms # 2 and 4, so we’re even.

1. The Non-Commercial (-NC) Restriction

The Freedom to Distribute Free Software is essential to its success. It has given rise to many for-profit businesses that benefit the larger community.

 

 

 

Red Hat, Canonical – would the world be better if such companies were forbidden? Would Free Software benefit from a ban on those businesses?

Yet the Cultural ecosystem is stunted by the prevalence of Non-Commercial restrictions. These maintain commercial monopolies around works, and  – especially for vocational artists like me – are functionally as restrictive as unmodified copyright. Yet they are widely  mislabeled “Free Culture,” or even “Copyleft.”

Which of these things does not belong?

 

 

 

This is a still from the mostly excellent and popular documentary RIP:a Remix Manifesto. This film is many peoples’ introduction to the term “Free Culture” and “Copyleft.” But as you can see, the Non-Commercial restriction is lumped in with actual Free license terms.

See that dollar sign with the slash in it? That means Non-Commercial restrictions, which are most definitely NOT Copyleft. (I’ve posted about Creative Commons’ branding confusion before, but it’s only gotten worse since then.)

NC stands for Not Copyleft

This film is itself licensed under unFree Non-Commercial restrictions. As an artist and filmmaker, I have found confusion is rampant among my creative colleagues. Some filmmakers are beginning to think the term “Free Culture” is cool, but they still want to restrict others’ freedom and impose commercial monopolies on their works.

This doesn't help either

 

 

The book Free Culture by Lawrence Lessig its itself not Free culure, but it is widely looked up to. It sets an unfortunate and confusing example with its Non-Commercial license. It illustrates the absence of guiding principles in the Free Culture movement.

I have spoken to many artists who insist there’s “no real difference” between Non-Commercial licenses and Free alternatives. Yet these differences are well known and unacceptable in Free Software, for good reason.
Calling  Non-Commercial restrictions “Free Culture” neuters what could be an effective movement, if it only had principles.

 

So what do I want?
I want a PRINCIPLED Free Culture Movement.

I want Free Software people to take Culture seriously. I want a Free Culture movement guided by principles of Freedom, just as the Free Software movement is guided by principles of Freedom. I want a name I can use that means something – the phrase “Free Culture” is increasingly meaningless, as it is often applied to unFree practices, and is also the name of a famous book that is itself encumbered with Non-Commercial restrictions.

I want a Free Culture ecosystem that allows artists to make money. I want anyone to be able to accept money for their work of remixing and building on Culture – just as a trucker can accept money for driving on a road. I want money to be among the many incentives to participate in building culture. Without the freedoms to Tinker and Redistribute without restriction, there is little incentive to build on  and improve cultural works. There is little reward to help your neighbor, when you are guaranteed to lose money doing so. “Free Culture” with non-Commercial restrictions will remain a hobby for those with a surplus of time and labor, and those who only accept money from monopolists.

I want commerce without monopolies. I want people to understand the difference.

I want a Free Culture ecosystem that includes equivalents of  businesses like Red Hat and Canonical. I want cultural businesses that give back to their communities, that work with their customers instead of against them. Only if we refuse to place Non-Commercial and No-Derivatives restrictions on our works will a robust Free Culture ecosystem be able to emerge.

I want the Free Software community – those who currently best understand the Four Freedoms – to champion the rest of Culture, not just Software. I want Freedom for All.

54 comments to RANTIFESTO

  • I feel like the challenge with the latter is to combat the notion that a commercial use is a lost licensing fee. Artists are starting to understand that a pirated download isn’t a lost sale, but still need to break from the line of thinking that they’d be missing out on all the licensing dollars they’d get if they allow commercial use. In almost all cases, they are — quite frankly — not.

  • [...] July 4th, 2011 by Contributor · No Comments · opinion // by Nina Paley [...]

  • Fantastic stuff!

    Its 11pm The 4th! I choose to go to work on the morrow, so it’ll have to be Tues evening before I can go through this carefully.

    Berlin sure got a blast!

  • (Thank you)^∞

    Since “fair use” makes no sense, and the burden is on the derivative making artist to prove their innocence, those who use the NC or ND licenses in CC are teasing at best.

    Thanks for so strongly finding the connection between free software and so-called “free culture.” Free software was what helped me make sense of all this a while ago: http://kylerconway.wordpress.com/2010/11/04/why-i-choose-creative-commons-by-sa/ and I’m always thrown when I come across an NC or ND license from a “free culture/software” worker.

    One personal example from this week: I am not allowed to use quotes from some ND licensed free software articles in my short cc-by-sa theatrical works extolling the value of free software. The result is that no one will encounter those strong and clear quotes in my play. At best I can provide a link (that few will click and even fewer will read).

    While I understand the intent, it goes very much against what I understand free software to be about. It certainly goes against free culture. In any case, these two areas should be allies.

    (And I’m not even going to start on the NC stuff. NC just moves the blurry line from the ill-defined “fair use” to the equally ill-defined “commercial.” Blah. Back to the RO culture.)

    Thanks for writing this. Any ideas about an alternatively named movement (other than “free culture”), or would you rather reclaim “free culture” back from those who diluted its meaning?

  • I think, we have to distinguish two types of motivations using NC restrictions.

    First, and this is what you mentioned, is to prevent others from exploiting my work, because I want do it myself. This means: keep the work half-open, but yet somewhat scarce.

    Second, and this I would like to add, is to prevent anyone from exploiting the work at all for every time, because exploiting itself is a restriction of freedom. My work if a gift to the world and should never be used for alien purposes, the only purpose is to enjoy it. These people use NC too. Here, it is much more complicate to argue against NC.

    Altough strongly supporting the demonetization approach, I try to convince these people, that NC is the wrong way too. Instead, copyleft (BY-SA) offers the opportunity to spread the freedom virus, because commercial exploiters have to use it further on when using my work.

    The other option is public domain for those works which contain a message worth to be spreaded in any forms. Also for free hardware movement — which is free culture too (the culture to freely produce what you want) — PD is an option, because there the patent issue comes into play. Etc. I’ll stop here :-)

    Btw: Tnx for your work, I especially like your quilts, they look great!

  • Nina, the ‘four freedoms’ are not fundamental principles: see http://culturalliberty.org/blog/index.php?id=55

    I’ve also explained why (in the absence of privilege) there is no need for an unethical grant of power to coerce distributors of binaries to surrender source code (an offer of an equitable amount of money is ample incentive): http://culturalliberty.org/blog/index.php?id=278

    As for Creative Commons see: http://culturalliberty.org/blog/index.php?id=267

    A principled movement is one based on natural rights – these are THE fundamental principles of human life on this planet per natural law.

    I suggest this principled movement would be better named the cultural liberty movement, i.e. freedom ethically constrained by everyone’s natural rights. Better than a movement that pursues freedom unconstrained, whether just for software, or all culture in general.

    Richard Stallman’s insistence upon ‘no derivatives’ for literary work can be seen to arise from his arbitrary categorisation of intellectual work (further departing from anything resembling fundamental principle): http://www.hamishharvey.com/mishmash2/2003/4/6/stallman8217s-categories-of-copyrighted-works.html

    It was thus a mistake for http://freedomdefined.org/Definition to assume ‘four freedoms’ were fundamental principles that could be extended for all culture generally, especially as this conflicts with RMS’s idea that certain categories of intellectual work don’t warrant as much freedom as others.

    It is from the category in which ‘opinion’ falls, that RMS mistakes a need for ‘no derivatives’ as a justified means of preventing misrepresentation (a falsehood). This still doesn’t justify bankruptcy and imprisonment for those who distribute unauthorised derivatives – even those that misrepresent the original author.

    The natural right here is to truth (against deceit, or ‘against impairment of its apprehension by others’ as I sometimes put it), and this is the same right that applies in the case of accuracy in attribution vs plagiarism.

    Principles do not and cannot arise from freedom, they arise from the vital powers of human beings, human bodies, human minds – to life, privacy, truth, liberty. It is these powers that being equalised into rights DELIMIT freedom.

    Artists, authors, software engineers, HAVE the liberty (vital power) to create derivatives of published works that they have in their possession, by nature. It takes an edict by a wicked queen to legislatively abrogate this liberty simply to enrich a consequently beholden press – with a pretext of encouraging her subjects’ learning.

    Truth on the other hand is vigorously protected by the people. To deceive others against their will is not a vital power of human beings, EXCEPT in defence of natural rights, e.g. “There are no Jews in this house”, “I did not have sex with that woman”, etc.

    The only power people need is that provided to them by nature. We create law to recognise this power as a right to be protected for all, equally. We create and empower governments to protect this law. We do NOT empower governments to annul rights in the majority to leave them, by exclusion, in the hands of a few, e.g. copyright (annulling the right to copy). We’ve never had the natural power to prevent others copying the works in their possession, whether we’ve authored them or not, and law that grants people such power is unethical.

    In terms of a cultural liberty movement, I’ve started the ball rolling. See http://culturalliberty.org

    We already have our natural liberty. What we don’t have is law that properly recognises it – law uncorrupted by the anachronistic privileges of copyright and patent.

  • @StefanMz:

    Second, and this I would like to add, is to prevent anyone from exploiting the work at all for every time, because exploiting itself is a restriction of freedom.

    Ahem. So then why isn’t exploiting Free Software a “restriction of freedom”? Because it’s not. Freedoms to modify and distribute are freedoms; blocking others from doing so are restrictions. I see a double standard: Software gets to be Free, but Culture doesn’t.

  • “I have spoken to many artists who insist there’s “no real difference” between Non-Commercial licenses and Free alternatives.”

    If indeed, they see no real difference, let them drop the NC as it will make no real difference to them (as they see it) and it will make you happy…

  • @Zacqary – many people choose NC restrictions because they think commerce is inherently bad, and they’re doing a service by preventing others from engaging in it. Meanwhile they accept paychecks from publishers and universities. I know everyone is a hypocrite in some way, but hypocrisy still drives me bats.

    @Kyle – I hope you just ignore the Law and include the best quotes you can find. Also I hope you post clips of the performances!

    Any ideas about an alternatively named movement (other than “free culture”), or would you rather reclaim “free culture” back from those who diluted its meaning?

    I’m going to try “Open Culture” for a while, see if it sticks.

  • @nina:

    So then why isn’t exploiting Free Software a “restriction of freedom”? Because it’s not.

    You don’t exploit Free Software, what you exploit, is the stuff you put around (service, customizing, whatever) when selling FS+. Therefore, the general statement (exploiting restricts freedom) applies. IMHO.

  • Roman Zenka

    Why does software get to be free and culture does not? (when I say “culture”, I mean “art”)

    - are the developers the most enlightened people out there?

    - is it because software consumption and development dynamics are perfectly suited for the software to be free, while they do not apply as well to art?

    - is it because artistic expression is an expression of an individual, while a piece of software usually does not come with ego attached? Quick, name me your favorite developers!

    - is it because the free software is actually financed by large corporations, because they see its value for their business? I am for example getting paid to make stuff that is free.

    - isn’t culture already free (in a sense)? People cannot help not to be inspired by great works by others and they incorporate the elements (after filtering them through their experiences) in their own works. If this was not true, you would not have “cubism”, you would have “Picassism”

  • You don’t exploit Free Software, what you exploit, is the stuff you put around (service, customizing, whatever) when selling FS+. Therefore, the general statement (exploiting restricts freedom) applies.

    And the same would be true of Free Culture, if people used Free licenses, but they don’t. You basically said, “Free Software is Free, un-Free Culture is not, therefore software should be free and culture shouldn’t.” It’s a tautology, and a huge blind spot among Free Software coders.

  • software consumption and development dynamics are perfectly suited for the software to be free, while they do not apply as well to art?

    That is nonsense. They apply perfectly to art.

    artistic expression is an expression of an individual, while a piece of software usually does not come with ego attached?

    Coders argued about the merits of the 4 Freedoms, and many of them had the same egotistic resistance to them that artists do – they felt, and still feel, entitled to restrict others because they “created” something. Both software and art come with egos attached; the Free Software community have gotten over that with their code, but have a massive blind spot regarding their other works.

    is it because the free software is actually financed by large corporations, because they see its value for their business?

    Much culture is financed by large corporations, but thanks to the prevalence of -NC and -ND restrictions, we do not allow businesses to arise that finance Free Culture, because they will always take a monopoly where they can. The reason large businesses finance Free Software projects is that Free licenses give them no other choice. But “Free Culture” has no principles, has been marked by compromise since the beginning, and strong copyleft is extremely rare. Also, you are pointing out the results of the absence of principled Free Culture, not the cause.

    isn’t culture already free (in a sense)? People cannot help not to be inspired by great works by others and they incorporate the elements (after filtering them through their experiences) in their own works.

    Of course! I advocate not placing artificial restrictions on culture, regardless of what the culture is. Human beings are also already Free (in a sense), but that didn’t stop slavery.

  • @Crosbie:

    the ‘four freedoms’ are not fundamental principles

    Indeed, but they are a useful checklist to help people determine whether their releases “respect the user’s freedom” or not. Useful, time-tested, and proven effective. Words about freedom are not the same as actual Freedom, of course.

  • Copyleft should attempt to restore people’s freedoms suspended by copyright and patent as far as is possible, no more. To go further, to compel people to do more, for the greater good, is to be seduced by copyright’s power.

    One then ends up no better than those who argue for the granting of copyright’s power to prevent others sharing or building upon their published work – for the greater good.

  • I agree with much of what you wrote. Yes, free culture needs more direction in terms of “commercial use”. Even though I am a HUGE fan of Creative Commons, I do see uses for ALL of their licenses, even the NC ones. Do I prefer the commercial-friendly ones? Yes, absolutely, but I also understand why someone might opt for a NC flavored license.

    As was mentioned above, public domain dedication is also an option… a powerful one at that. Unfortunately, the pd gets lost in a lot of these discussions. If our copyright term wasn’t so long (and getting longer, I suppose), this conversation would be a lot different.

    Your examples of Canonical and Red Hat are perfect. We need to stress ways for companies/artists to profit from their work while still using free licenses. It’s a critical element to this conversation.

  • You basically said, “Free Software is Free, un-Free Culture is not, therefore software should be free and culture shouldn’t.”

    Oh, no, I feel misinterpretated. On the contrary, I would say, that not only Free Software and not only Free Culture should be free, but everything (and everybody) should be free. However, striving for exploitation does make us unfree, because we are coerced to do so.

  • Agree. I suspect its because it’s a system designed by academics. It’s always annoyed me. Actually, what annoys me is not that they offer the licences, it’s that they don’t draw out the distinction between them. If they just said here are some open licences and here are some not quite open licences, that would be an improvement.

    I tried to argue why NC licences are bad a couple of years ago:
    http://brendanscott.wordpress.com/2008/09/02/why-non-commercial-licences-are-bad/

    NC has come back to bite them as now pretty ordinary uses are found to be NC.

  • frefiz

    Semantic arguments aside. I have a real need for a license that is not covered by “Free” or “Common” or “CopyRight or Left”

    So I’ve been working 3 years and investing 6 figures of my own money solving some important problems. I know my (software) solution is not the end game and I want people to build on it – freely but not for free: If someone makes money off my work product I would like a piece, but they shouldn’t have to pay me or even get my permission up front. If someone wants to use my product for their own benefit, then they can give me a monetary “thank you” or not.

    I read you RANTIFESTO and realize I very happy to see that I am not the only one thinking this way.

  • John R. Hogerhuis

    I think the use of “no derivative works” is to ensure integrity of the work. It comes to you, unmodified as though it carried the seal of the original author. Of course, this is not necessary, at least when a work is in digital form because it can be cryptographically signed and verified.
    Perhaps this is a legacy concern and could be dropped from documentation licenses?
    And by the way, we are talking about the FSF’s documentation licenses, yes? Otherwise it is not clear to me why the FSF is being dragged into this rant.

  • Richard

    Two considerations:

    1. What about the right to be accurately reported? I have made some recordings of certain talks, and released my recordings as CC-no-derivs. The point is, I want to ensure that the speakers are quoted in full, not in part, to protect them from being (deliberately, or accidentally) taken out of context.

    2. Non-commercial doesn’t mean “you can’t use this and make a profit”, it means “in the unlikely event that *you* make a lot of money out of *my* work, I want to be able to ensure you play fair and give me a contribution”.

  • petr_p

    If I recall correctly, FSF provided Free Documentation License (FDL) that offered all four freedoms as Generic Public License for software and that was used, e.g, for Wikipedia content. However FSF found FDL inappropriate for some reasons and updated it with a notice it can be superseded by CC. Studying the rationale for the move or forking FDL could help in this topic.

  • [...] is a “rantifesto” from Nina Paley, who is frustrated that the freedoms guaranteed by free software licenses aren’t always [...]

  • Nina, I agree with you. There is discussion going on here on this very subject:
    http://lwn.net/Articles/450415/

    Thanks for posting!

  • Dear Nina:

    I disagree strongly with your view here, even as a free culture advocate. Maybe after this you will exclude me from such a tag, but the following is how I feel.

    First, let us remember that copyright is a commercial means to an end, it is not good nor evil, it is how it is used that matters in the end. Given that, the question which Stallman has raised has to do with how to treat copyright in a way that it is best suited for the whole of society, which is something not easy to make. Copyright, in the end, is about creating an economic incentive so that society in general benefits.

    In this sense, for me, your statement is a non-sequitur, meaning that the fact that the FSF has established that all software should be free (“free” as in “freedom”) it does not follow that every single that the FSF should be in favor that all cultural objects be “free” the same way “free software” is. To have a more restrictive sort of software, even when beneficial to only few individuals, will create all sorts of problems … even to the point of human right issues, many of which were pointed out by Stallman, and I need not to elaborate here.

    My argument is this, if copyright is a means to an end, then it means that we should look at different instances where several levels of copyright restrictions does work and does not work.

    Why all software should be free, and not an essay of opinion? The reason, contrary to what has been claimed in one of the comments, is not arbitrary. Software is *technology*, but it is an abstract technology. This is the reason why it is the only form of technology which can be copied and shared. It can be useful for anyone who copies it, learns by reading the source code, modifies it, and so on. But an essay of opinion, like the one I am writing for a philosophical journal, are not technology, and are not useful in the sense that software is useful.

    I don’t see exactly what is the use for someone to take an essay I have written, modify it just a tad, and then publish that essay with an insignificant modification in a journal. That is why, at least for me, there is a justified use for the CC-BY-ND licenses. I also agree with Stallman that works such as catalogues, news reports and so on, should also be ND. Even with that, notice that at least the CC-BY-ND does tell people that their fair use rights are respected, and it is open to the fact that you can actually go to the author and talk to him or her if you wish to use his or her works in ways different from what the license is intended to do. At least I won’t forbid anyone from quoting me for good or bad critiques.

    What about art, music, etc? Stallman is perfectly aware that these are also different from software in many respects. LibreOffice can substitute MS Office (that’s the nature of abstract technology). Yet, Beyoncé’s “Crazy in Love” does not substitute Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”. But at the same time it is good and useful to let people create derivative works out of them … such as the way you used Annette Hanshaw’s songs to create Sita Sings the Blues. If there are commercial interests, a NC wouldn’t be so bad. It can be a good incentive, but it should not be too restrictive as to ask for insane amounts of money disregarding the economic reality of whoever is asking permission (as it happened in your case). That would be actually a threat to freedom of expression. I think the same should happen with artistic works. In my particular case, I write poetry, but I am not interested in money (and I seriously doubt that I will earn money for it), so I don’t use the NC in such case.

    What about what Stallman calls “functional works” (educational material, technical material, etc.)? They should all be free in the sense of “free software”. As a teacher, I wholeheartedly agree with him, because at least in the educational realm, any sort of copyright restrictions on those materials have served nothing but to hinder my activity as a teacher.

    This is the reason why in works of mine such as essays of opinion, I use the CC-BY-ND; books which express my opinion (and I have some monetary interest) are released under the CC-BY-ND-NC with a provision to release it from copyright after 14 years of publication; I publish educational material under the CC-BY-SA and the GNU FDL; and my poetic works under the CC-BY-SA.

    This use of copyright in a case by case basis, for me, is more rational than a “principled free culture movement” where I should treat all forms of culture *exactly* the same way. I don’t believe that all forms of culture are ends in themselves, but always means to benefit society which *is* an end in itself. If restrictive copyright actually is harmful at *all* levels, then their lack of use should be based, not on ethical principles, but on the fact that they are disfunctional. If several levels of restrictions in case by case basis *does* serve in general society as a whole, then such policy should be adopted because it *is* functional, not because of ethical principles. There will be no perfect copyright system (as perfection in this world is impossible), but copyright restrictions or lack of them should never be based on individual ethics, but on functionality, in order to serve society … the good ethical thing to do.

    There is one thing I do agree with you, though, I am not clear whether licenses and definitions should have a ND restriction. As you show very well in your example, there can be a use of modification of licenses. Perhaps the modification of license or definition should specify more in order not to be confused with the definition given by the original author or licensor.

  • Ni!na,

    Thank you for this wonderful rantifesto ;D

    @all the people who just don’t get it:

    She’s talking about cultural freedom. Your are free to start your own “not-so-free culture movement”, but don’t come argue that “this or that restriction is perfectly reasonable in this or that situation”.

    The only restriction compatible with freedom is that you ask others to do as much as you did to not restrict theirs. And that translates into the optional share-alike restriction.

    @libertarian guy who gets it from another angle:

    You have the natural right to hold the idea that the only valid principles are natural rights. Everybody else in the planet has the right to decide through experience whether that is enough to build a society of fairness and solidarity at this point of our history (or, should I say, story?) ;)

    Hugs,
    ale
    .:.

  • [...] Techdirt, cartoonist Nina Paley has a “rantifesto” in which she argues that copyleft licensing with respect to cultural works actually places [...]

  • Matt Lee

    I think for free culture to really take off, you need artists creating art with free software tools as well.

    At the FSF, until fairly recently the artists were programmers making free tools with free tools. Before that, when there weren’t any free tools, the programmers at the FSF made them.

    Nowadays, we have a rich body of non-programming creative work coming out of the Free Software Foundation, including graphical work, as well as limited video and audio.

    I just think it’s important that people don’t forget that the FSF is coming at this from the opposite direction… we’re already exclusively using free software and making (some) art in the process.

    This is my personal view, not the FSF’s…

  • Petr Svoboda

    Author of this opinion presented in this blog post simply does not understand, that the reason why the TEXT on fsf website is released under No derivates, is so that no one can legally take the text, change particular words so the meaning of the whole will be totally opposite and then realease it “as new version” and spread FUD. (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt)

    The licenses are choosen to prevent corporations destroying free software and free culture.

    It would not hurt to THINK more, before releasing such “rantifestos”. And did you discuss this with the guys at FSF for example? With Lawrence Lessig? Certainly not. Maybe then you would understand WHY the licenses are such as they are.

    And talking about Lawrence Lessig’s book… You alone said he’s spent DECADES studying the free software/culture ecosystem. Dont you think he knows better than you which license to choose? (And after all, he is the author) Don’t you think he knows WHY he realeased it under THIS license and no other? Do you think he doesn’t THINK? You should realize his mission is the same of what we all want, that is regaining freedom to share information taken from us by the corporations and their peons in the governments. And Lessig + Free Software Foundation did so much for freedom, and are still doing, that in fact the free software today would not even exist. And i mean litterally, because AFAIK the first free compiler was made by Stallman, founder of FSF . yet alone ‘free culture’.

    Anyhow, the only real solution I can think of ATM is to ABOLISH “COPYRIGHT” whatsoever, which is in fact copy monopoly, in todays world where corporations controll the flow of information. Not the authors anyway.

  • JanC

    The obvious reason for the FSF to use a “ND” license for text is that they want to prevent forking of the FSF and the GPL. It’s up to everybody whether you would consider that good or bad (e.g. less fragmentation in the “license market” vs. monopoly-like powers for the FSF), but like Nina explains it does not grant the same rights to “FSF users” that they ask software developers to grant to *their* users by using the GPL…

  • zeh

    You raise good points, Nina, but you have to go deeper to find the root of these issues. What’s at stake here is who benefits from the production. It must be producers and consumers, with exploiters excluded. This is the whole point, which nor copyright nor this “copyleft” manages to address.

    Dmytri Kleiner makes this point very clear in his “Contribution to The Critique of Free Culture”, a chapter in the Telekommunist Manifesto (http://docs.telekommunisten.org/The+Telekommunist+Manifesto, hardcopies and PDF also available at http://www.telekommunisten.net/the-telekommunist-manifesto).

  • Petr Svoboda

    @JanC

    “monopoly like powers for FSF” is absolutely ridiculous, ffs realize what the GPL means and what the FSF does before saying such logical nonsenses.

  • A free-culture eco-system that rivals the reach and importance of the free software movement? I dream the same dream, and I do believe that it can happen. However, there are two crucial elements that free-culture is lacking:

    1) free-culture lacks a “keystone” project, while free-software has many (I’ll explain)

    2) the edit-ability of culture/media varies, while the source format distribution of software contains a predictable level of inherent modification.

    By “keystone” project I mean a piece of culture that you can not avoid, at all–ever. In free software there are numerous examples, here is one: is a layout engine that powers many modern web-browsers, including Chrome and Safari, not to mention the mobile browsers for the Iphone, Android and Symbian platforms, as well as the Blackberry Browser (ver 6.0+) (according to wikipedia). Basically, if you’ve ever browsed the internet on your phone you’ve used Webkit.

    There is no analogue for a piece of culture…yet. Maybe artists would be more inclined to drop NC if they were to see how far reaching a creation can become, if modification is unrestricted.

    Okay, and now my second point: articles of culture, as they are currently distributed, do not always offer the same inherent edit-ability as software distributed in source format. Example: if I want to re-mix a song I can easily obtain the song from a variety of sources. I can download a copy, I can rip a cd, or I can record it off the radio. However, all of those methods will produce a file that has more in common with a piece of binary software, which is difficult to modify. If I had access to the individual tracks (or perhaps the score) that compose the song, I would have in my hands something closer to the “source” files, and something that I can extract-edit-copy-splice specific parts of for use in my own songs (note: I am a visual artist, not an audio one…so, maybe I’m wrong). Moreover, even if you are offered a song freely, but it is in the .mp3 format, then its edit-ability is diminished by it being contained in a lossy format. I do love , but as far as I know, the samples are distributed as mp3s, and lossy derivatives of lossy derivatives of lossy derivatives can only go so far.

    Similarly, giving me a photograph under CC-BY-SA is great, but it is still binary oriented. I want the Photoshop or GIMP file, I want to roll back your specific changes, and I want to merge and compare my own changes, as well as arbitrary changes from multiple other authors in a manner akin to using a distributed revision control system, just as they are used for source code.

    To see a truly diverse and vibrant ecosystem of free-culture, articles of culture need to be disseminated in their most editable form.

    sidenote: on both my points, Wikipedia is close to proving me wrong (which is good).

  • William

    Hi Nina. Thanks for making some noise about these issues. I don’t really understand your beef about this particular issue, however.

    It’s to be expected that different licenses will be used for different types of works. I have released open source software under a number of licenses (PD, BSD, LGPL, GPL) because I wanted to achieve something different in each case.

    Freedom is important, but so are constraints. Work doesn’t happen without them.. You want the freedom to make money by mixing existing products, while others see the use of money itself as antithetical to freedom. Where you stand depends on where you sit. Your use of Flash is a prime example, no? It’s not free but you’ve decided that getting something done is more important in this case. It all comes down to how you define freedom and that’s something that is always in flux. Stallman’s four freedoms are so kick ass because they are a very concise, operational, definition of freedom.

    As for Canonical, they are a poor example of how business should work with free software. They have been unable to turn a profit and seem to be doing everything they can to fracture the Linux ecosystem.

  • Is the free culture movement forever destined to move around the same arguments for eternity? It is hugely important for a library of free culture or something to enable, ironically, the arguments around free culture to draw on the work that has gone before.

    Perhaps this is a start?

    Tentative Library of Free Culture (version 0.01)

    Bare Code: Net Art and the Free Software Movement

    Art, creativity, intellectual property and the commons: Can free/libre culture transform art?

    And of course the various free culture movements…

    Against Intellectual Property

    The Politics of the Libre Commons

  • http://www.metamute.org/en/Copyfarleft-and-Copyjustright

    You can’t talk about production of art or software without looking at modes and class.

  • genium

    Hi Nina, The FSF is the copyright holder of the GNU system components, his work is about software, not culture. As Lessig said, Free culture is derived from the Free Software movement(1), and both have their own identity. IMHO, you can’t ask the FSF to do what you want, as they represent GNU hackers, and the free software philosophy. That said, I agree with you on the need to have a strong free culture movement. The best way seem to not follow the cc way, but choose alternative: Free Art ( http://artlibre.org/licence/lal/en ). Free Art is copyleft the GPL is for software…

    Hope this helps

    http://www.fsf.org/appeal/2009/lawrence-lessig (1)

  • “I want a Free Culture ecosystem that allows artists to make money. I want anyone to be able to accept money for their work of remixing and building on Culture – just as a trucker can accept money for driving on a road.”

    This is the most problematic part in the post. Nobody forbids artists to make money. There are plenty of works to remix under the CC attribution license that does not stop you from selling the remixes. Freedom never meant you could do anything you want. In fact, it would be far from freedom if artists couldn’t decide what you could do with their work. This is the main idea of Creative Commons. Certainly not forcing people to give away their stuff. That would be no freedom, much like the opposite.
    About the trucker, as long as he/she is driving on a private road, that somebody else built with his own efforts, the owner of the road gets to decide if he/she can use it to make money.
    What exactly is your problem?

  • Josh

    You might like the book Two Bits: the cultural significance of free software by Christopher Kelty.

  • Stephane

    I don’t think it’s a coincidence that what you fight for (an ecosystem that rejects -ND and -NC out of principle) is what some in the software community fought for back in 1997. It was the same hypocrisy you describe that led to the birth of the OSI (Open Source Initiative) back then.

    You can take the key principles of Open Source (www.opensource.org/osd.html) and roughly adapt them to Culture:

    - The license MUST allow modifications and derived works. The mere ability to access culture isn’t enough to support the growth and evolution of culture. For evolution and growth to happen, people need to be able to experiment with and redistribute modifications.

    - The license MUST NOT discriminate against any person or group of persons. The major intention of this clause is to prohibit license traps that prevent open culture from being used commercially. We want commercial users to join our community, not feel excluded from it.

    In my view, if the 4 freedoms were the Constitution of Free Software, these were the much needed amendments. Without it, I doubt Open Source/Free Software would have been nearly as successful.

    You made my day in one of your responses to the comments: ‘I’m going to try “Open Culture” for a while, see if it sticks.’

    It seems to me “Open” (rather than “Free”) has become the dominant meme not only in Software but in many other domains: hardware, science, design, university, knowledge, data, government.

    Open Culture should replace Free Culture–not just for the sake of using a less confusing word–but to make it clear what Open Culture stands for: no -ND and -NC enclosures.

    Open Culture = CC BY-SA, or what you called CC PRO. It might even be ironic to think of it as CC OPEN.

  • yza

    Thanks Nina for this point of view. I agree with you at one thousand percent.

    I’m not sure that using the term “open” is the best idea (or only in the english speaking countries)
    Here in France “Licences ouvertes” (open licences) include all the licences : the copyleft ones and the restricted ones. Sometimes it means only restricted licenses.
    Some institutions have validated this dénomination.
    We also use sometimes “licenses for free broadcast” = “Licence de libre diffusion”

    By the way, we use a term more explicit than “free” = “Libre”.
    Free like free beer is translated by another word = “gratuit”

    But we face the same problem : free licenses (licences libres) and Free culture (culture libre) are used to name what we should call “open Licenses” (Licences ouvertes) in our french way of speaking . Recently, I noticed that we have to say now “full copyleft” (in english not translated) to talk about “real” free licenses in debates about free music.

    Personnaly, I wish I could refer to an international organization that would claim the validity of the four freedoms for free culture. If people from the FSF don’t want to reconsider their position, it could be another organization (to be created ?) I guess.

    (I hope it’s clear because the translation wasn’t easy for I do not speak english fluently)

  • Jacques

    Let’s say you have written an opinion (out of the depths of your
    heart) with which you can make money. [add some other excellent
    reasons to licence it under NC, ND]

    Now, let’s say there are children that I want to teach your opinion
    to. I want to rewrite your opinion in a “child-understandable” format
    and sell it to the children’s parents so I can eat.

    You would not have lost money from me doing it, since it was not
    “child-understandable” to begin with, and (say) it does not put your
    opinion in a different light than you intended it to be.

    Yet, I would NOT be free to do that. And if I am not free to do it,
    I would not consider your work as part of free culture.

    I could ask your permission to do it and you would grant it; i.e.
    remove the NC and ND restrictions for me. Then it would be part of
    free culture for me, but still not for the rest of the world.

  • Actually I think the issue of the FSF is that they

    1) Fight a battle: The text serve a purpose first and for all, and
    2) Don’t trust the strength of their writing as much as the strength of their code.

    They claim that political action is fundamentally different from the cneation of cultural works. I think that they are wrong with that (only the GPL needs rigid protection, so it can safeguard the freedom of other works), but they clearly fear that they would weakn themselves in their missin to bring free software to the world.

    As for me: Almost all I write is under the GPL, including songs, stories, political articles¹ and roleplaying material². I want the four freedoms for any kind of cultural expression.

    ¹: http://draketo.de
    ²: http://1w6.org

  • VG

    Hey Nina, what kind of license are you publishing your articles under? I’ve some cunning ideas about copying the ones I find interesting, modifying them as I want and publishing them under my name, but as your opinions! Of course, I’ll be making the “source code” (your original ideas and my modifications and additions) available to anybody who requests it, but with perhaps a slight delay of a couple of days or maybe a week.

    Provided I had a large number of readers (which I don’t) what do you think the impact to YOU might be?

  • NC has a limited place – e.g. I’d like to be able to share personal photos on the web without worrying about what commercial use they could be put to (I’m thinking of Vodafone Australia’s ad campaign a few years ago). Sure it’s unlikely, but I’d rather avoid the risk.

    But I’d like CC to be much, much clearer about the difference, and about the fact that NC licenses and free license are not compatible. And I’d like them to never again support the use of words that vaguely refer to a CC license, without specifying right there _which_ license, and/or what restrictions apply. (Looks like they might have cut out the vague wording that used to appear with a lot of the CC license marks on websites – if so, that’s a good thing.)

  • [...] impressed by Nina Paley‘s Rantifesto and Culture is Anti-rivalrous I’ve decided to release another set of animated loops under a [...]

  • [...] lorsqu’il s’agit de l’art n’en est que plus surprenante — et n’a pas manqué d’être pourfendue par ceux et celles qui aspirent à un mouvement Libre digne de ce nom dans les domaines [...]

  • [...] lorsqu’il s’agit de l’art n’en est que plus surprenante — et n’a pas manqué d’être pourfendue par ceux et celles qui aspirent à un mouvement Libre digne de ce nom dans les domaines [...]

Leave a Reply

 

 

 

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>