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An Artist's Hippocratic Oath · Wednesday August 16, 2006 by Crosbie Fitch

I wonder if perhaps it’s not only art that should be identified as free of encumbrance, but artists too?

Perhaps artists should be able to declare themselves fully committed proponents of free culture?

After all, isn’t it an artist whose reputation is at stake, not merely their art?

We need some oath that declares an absolute respect for truth, privacy, and artistic freedom.

I mentioned something similar on SlashDot recently. Perhaps something could be refined along these lines?

“I will not accept the enslavement of my fellow man, nor any imposition upon his liberty, as reward for the publication of my art”

This can be fleshed out, e.g. having qualifications that copyright will not be used except in order to preserve artistic freedom, that patents would not be used except in order to prevent the exercise of derivative patents, that DRM/DMCA would never be used, etc.

However, we’d need to emphasise the respect for accurate attribution (which includes respect for laudable use of trademarks), and the privacy of other people (artists) and their organisations.

For some strange reason some people think commercial secrets are inherently evil, and yet they have no impact upon the freedom of the public – unless you believe people should have the freedom to violate another’s right to privacy. So, we’d need to clarify a respect for commercial secrets (as for all undisclosed information). This is obviously distinct from any ethical argument concerning whistle-blowers acting in the public good. We’d need to clarify that ‘liberating’ a pre-production release of Star Wars Episode 7 does not actually count as acting in the public good…

Scott C. said 4751 days ago :

Perhaps artists should be able to declare themselves fully committed proponents of free culture?

Of course they should be able to, if they want to.

Although, if an employer is an abuser of software patents, I would hope that any employee who is committed to free software would be looking for another employer ASAP. I don’t think there is a need for an oath to quit immediately. Maybe I’m just being safe and pragmatic. Still, I think you can be committed to free software and culture without putting your livelihood at stake on a moment’s notice.

What would you hope to gain with this oath—to put some pressure on a company to behave better?

http://www.movingtofreedom.org/
Freedom is on the March! (Or at least in the planning stages…)

Crosbie Fitch said 4751 days ago :

Putting one’s livelihood on the line might as well be declared up front as a declaration of integrity, and not least a warning to less scrupulous employers or clients that the artist does actually have scruples.

It won’t be for everyone, by any means, but some people may be happy to advertise their principles, and be judged by them.

Scott C. said 4751 days ago :

I’m happy to advertise my belief in free software and a free society, but perhaps my idealism is qualified and my principles compromised if I don’t want to make that oath and stand by it. Of course, I’m just getting started with freedom practitioning and agitation and maybe haven’t read enough Eben Moglen yet to let go of my inhibitions.

I can say I absolutely wouldn’t work for a company that abused software patents. I think software patents are a huge threat to freedom. And we should probably flee from this kind of company anyway, for more pragmatic reasons if nothing else, if we agree with what Paul Graham said:

“A company that sues competitors for patent infringement is like a defender who has been beaten so thoroughly that he turns to plead with the referee. You don’t do that if you can still reach the ball, even if you genuinely believe you’ve been fouled. So a company threatening patent suits is a company in trouble.”



 

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