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Nina Paley’s “Rantifesto”: Why are the Freedoms guaranteed for Free Software not guaranteed for Free Culture?

Great post by Nina Paley:


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?

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Paley heroically calls to task the advocates of “free culture” for hypocrisy, e.g. in their use of -ND (no derivative works) and -NC (no commercial use) limitations on non-software, “cultural” works.

See also her cross-post at Techdirt.

{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Shay July 9, 2011, 11:41 am

    Note that the free software freedom 1 is different than the others. The others merely require that the author not use force against others, whereas freedom 1 requires that the author make the source code available, even though not doing so doesn’t violate anyone’s rights. Put another way, if copyright and patent law suddenly disappeared, all the other freedoms would be automatically met for everything, since nobody could (legally) use force to prevent those activities anymore, whereas freedom 1 would require (voluntary) cooperation from the author, since him not following it doesn’t violate anyone’s rights. This isn’t a criticism of these freedoms, just a clarification.

    BTW, the reply box’s font is way too small. I had to expand all fonts on the page to enormous size just to get this readable. What’s wrong with using the default size chosen by the browser?

  • Crosbie Fitch July 11, 2011, 4:37 pm

    I try to explain why even in the presence of copyright the GPL doesn’t actually need to oblige the publication of source code here: http://culturalliberty.org/blog/index.php?id=278 There is certainly no need for such coercion without copyright & patent.

    I also reply to Nina Paley’s Rantifesto here: http://culturalliberty.org/blog/index.php?id=280

To the extent possible under law, Stephan Kinsella has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to C4SIF. This work is published from: United States. In the event the CC0 license is unenforceable a  Creative Commons License Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License is hereby granted.