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A Principled Constraint of Cultural Freedom · Tuesday July 05, 2011 by Crosbie Fitch

In RANTIFESTO Nina Paley is astute in noticing inconsistency and a lack of coherent principle in the foundations of the free software and free culture movements. I’ve tidied up my comment to her article as follows.

Nina, the ‘four freedoms’ are not fundamental principles: see Flawed Freedoms

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): Copyleft Without Coercion

As for Creative Commons see: Creative Commons Cultivates Copyright

A principled movement is one based on natural rights – these are the fundamental principles of harmonious 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): STALLMAN’S CATEGORIES OF COPYRIGHTED WORKS

It was thus a mistake for the Definition of Free Cultural Works 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 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.

John Baker said 1935 days ago :

I have noticed an odd thing in that people seem happy with creative commons licensed films and music etc which almost never provide the full source code i.e. unedited footage plus the projects used to put all that together into an edited ‘complete’ piece.

There are a few exceptions where musicians have provided multi-track stems for remixing, but even those are not the original projects, rather selected renders (you still can’t get back to the source material).

Why do people assume this is OK for film but not for software?

Crosbie Fitch said 1935 days ago :

John, artists are focussed on producing art, and are likely to only have a secondary interest in providing their source/intermediate materials. However, crowdfunding (unlike copyright) can encourage artists to provide these things.

Closed source is an epiphenomenon of copyright, but something Richard Stallman hoped to directly remedy via the GPL. It is a peculiarity of software that it can be highly derivative, and the source is vital for this – not the binary result.

In a free market, when there is no jeopardy to artists in publishing their source materials, the source will have its own price along with the finished edit.

So, provision of source is not an ethical issue, but an economic one.



 

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