November 21, 2009

How Far Can it Go?

Category: Academic,Berkman,F/OSS,Free Culture,IP Law,Open Access,Politics — Biella @ 10:20 am

During the month of October I spent quite a bit of time thinking about the past, present, and future of F/OSS. This was due in part to participation in a Berkman Center event on Free Culture, where we discussed the historical arc of Free Software to Free Culture, the relationships between them (and their differences), and also the content and meaning each. Over the years, what I have found so interesting about Free Software is how it left its enclave to inspire countless groups into rethinking the politics and ethics of production and access and yet, as I raised in this pod-cast interview (due to the prompting of my interviewer, Elizabeth Stark), Free Software and/or Free Culture is still pretty bounded and contained phenomenon especially when compared to something like the existing consciousness over the environmental movement, which many folks “know” about and understand even when and if they are not involved in doing anything for the movement. I always ask my first year students whether they know what Free Software or Free Culture is and 9 out 10 stare at me with those blank eyes that basically speak in silence: “no.”

Now, there are a group of activists, many located in Europe, a number of them with deep roots in the social justice movement who are taking Free Culture down a different path, trying to expand its meaning and conjoin it to social justice issues, build a broad set of coalitions across the political spectrum so as to override the fragmentation that is so characteristic to contemporary political moment, and use FC as an opportunity to critique the market fundamentalism of the last few decades.

If you are interested in these issues, take a look at their charter: they are looking for comments (critical and constructive) as well as endorsements (here is the long version).

I myself have a few comments, for example, I think it is worth noting something like the limits of what FC can do, that even if in many ways it can be activated to do good in the world, it is also best to highlight in the same swoop that FC is not some political panacea and has limits.

For example some groups in the world, notably some indigenous communities abide by a different logic of access and culture, whereby full access is not culturally or ethically desirable, as the work of Kim Christen has illuminated. I also wonder in what ways issues of labor might be addressed more forcefully, and though they briefly raise the question of environmental sustainability, it is worth expanding these more directly and deeplyas this article by Toby Miller and Richard Maxwell make clear.

There is more to say but I will leave it here for now and just say it is really great to see Free Culture taken down another political path that is rooted in coalition building.

August 27, 2009

Updates: Private Foundations and Licensing

Category: Berkman,F/OSS,IP Law,Politics — Biella @ 1:57 pm

A few updates on the EveryBlock case and the Knight Foundation. Tieguy (Luis Villa) left a comment which I am quoting in full below:

That said, it is entirely possible that Knight was ill-advised and believed (as many casual users do) in the magical power of open source licenses to create community. If this did indeed catch Knight off guard, it might be worth pulling people together to discuss best practices for grant-making organizations who want to create real value and not just lumps of well-licensed code.

Related to this, Berkman has released a whitepaper on (apparently) just this topic today. Probably worth checking out for folks interested in this topic.

Then there is this excellent interview led by Jonah Bossewitch with Chris Mackie who is a program office at Mellon.

Update: Here are some thoughts I penned down very very quickly in response to the interview:

1. I can see the argument about complex software products benefiting
from the BSD: at the same time I can totally see the value of just
keeping it open as well so everyone can benefit from improvements to
something that is as complex as Chris points point. Also if you keep
it totally internal to your shop, you don’t need to re-release,
although if you want to combine propriety and non-proprietary software
and then re-release I can see the value of the BSD code

2. When it comes to the question of ownership, where he says IP trumps licenses,
Chris Mackie does not seem to link the complexity of project to the licenses. When I was
having a discussion about this on Debian-devel, a number of folks
mentioned how very complex projects with many contributors, each who
had copyright and asserted GPL, worked through this swarm to protect
one person trumping ownership at some future point. They saw this as a
feature, not a bug, which I completely agree with. So some projects
are –and please correct me if I am wrong–far far more susceptible to
of weakness of the licenses if 1) they don’t hand over to a
trustworthy organization, like the FSF or the copyrights are held in a
few small hands. Once you start spreading the copyrights over a large
mas of people, it becomes very very difficult to ever assert a
copyright up and above the GPL.

January 25, 2008

Berkman Center no longer seems to be hosting dvd-discuss

Category: Berkman,F/OSS,Tech — Biella @ 3:14 pm

Before I post the longer version…

I am looking for a full copy of the dvd-discuss archives. Does anyone have it??

The Berkman Center, who had been archiving them is no longer doing so!! (hard to believe), even though they have a broken link from this page.

There are some archives I have found but they seem incomplete.

If you have earlier mailing list archives, please please let me know!

update: So thanks to some help I have the earlier archives on the wayback machine but they should be archived on the same spot, no?