Free Culture In an Expensive world

Updated a year ago

Free Culture in an Expensive World

"Free culture" is an ambiguous label. Fittingly, it has been adopted and adapted by a large number of communities. These include free and open source software contributors, the open access movement, government transparency advocates, creators of remixes and fan works, peer educators, and more.

These communities are guided by a constellation of values:

“Free software” means software that respects users' freedom and community. Roughly, it means that the users have the freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software. [...] We campaign for these freedoms because everyone deserves them. With these freedoms, the users (both individually and collectively) control the program and what it does for them. - The Free Software Definition

We need to take information, wherever it is stored, make our copies and share them with the world. We need to take stuff that's out of copyright and add it to the archive. We need to buy secret databases and put them on the Web. We need to download scientific journals and upload them to file sharing networks. We need to fight for Guerilla Open Access. - The Guerilla Open Access Manifesto

We envision a future in which all fannish works are recognized as legal and transformative and are accepted as a legitimate creative activity. We are proactive and innovative in protecting and defending our work from commercial exploitation and legal challenge. We preserve our fannish economy, values, and creative expression by protecting and nurturing our fellow fans, our work, our commentary, our history, and our identity while providing the broadest possible access to fannish activity for all fans. - The Organization for Transformative Works' "What We Believe"

In the declarations and descriptions of these communities, we see the same values again and again. Freedom. Autonomy. Access. Sharing. Collaboration. Community. Creativity.

But these movements share something else besides values: they all exist within the same global economic system. Although laws and conditions vary from country to country and home to home, broadly speaking most free culture activists are embedded within market economies which do not ensure access to their basic human rights:

Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control. - Article 25.1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

This book explores the tension between the open ethos of free culture and the material needs and limitations of free culture creators.

The writing process begins with the creation of two appendices which serve as a structure for openly researching the book. The first appendix is an annotated bibliography of papers, blog posts, conference talks, micropublications, and other sources of discussion about these topics. The second appendix is a compilation of interview transcripts with members of free culture communities about how they and their communities, projects, and organizations deal with money and other resource constraints.