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Re: [Gnugeneration-discuss] [FC-discuss] What ideas do you have for dire

From: Karl Fogel
Subject: Re: [Gnugeneration-discuss] [FC-discuss] What ideas do you have for direct action techniques to further free software and free culture?
Date: Mon, 16 Apr 2012 00:29:13 -0400
User-agent: Gnus/5.13 (Gnus v5.13) Emacs/24.0.95 (gnu/linux)

Danny Piccirillo <address@hidden> writes:
>There is a debate within the free culture and free software
>communities (presented within the scope of software, where it is most
>Permissive vs Copyleft
>Permissive licensing is mostly hands off, and allows for proprietary
>software to be made from free software. The argument here is that free
>software should be made by choice, or at least that the law shouldn't
>be relied upon to keep software free.

I realize most of your email was humorous or meant as provocation :-),
but I wanted to address seriously something in what you say above:

We hear this "choice" argument all the time: that free culture and free
software are all very well and good, but shouldn't it be the producer's
"choice" whether or not to release their work under a free license?

When people ask the question that way, they forget that everyone has the
potential for choice.  We need to explain that a creator exercising such
a "choice" is thus taking choices away from others.  That is, if I
choose to (say) publish a book under a non-free license, I am thereby
*taking away* everyone else's choices to share it, translate it, make
derivative works from it, etc.  (And it's worse than a zero-sum game,
since so many more people's choices are being limited in that scenario.)

Of course, taking away those choices is currently the default under law.
The state not only grants, but actively encourages, that particular
monopoly -- so much so that many people don't even think of this as
reducing others' choices, even though that is its main effect.

So when you encounter the "choice" argument, please point out to your
interlocutor that choice goes both ways.


>Copyleft protects free software by preventing it from being
>appropriated to restrict users' freedom. One of the greatest opponents
>to free software is Apple, and they probably wouldn't be around (at
>least not as they are today) without taking free code (from BSD) and
>making it non-free. The argument here is clear: copyright can be a
>tool to protect free software.
>Industry forces
>This section isn't very articulate, sorry. Probably unnecessary as
>well, skip if it if you're busy and you can come back to it later.
>So long as we live in a capitalist society (disregarding any judgement
>of it), money drives business and production. There is no reason that
>giving things away for free is good for a business. It might not be
>bad, and it may be made to work for many businesses, but is it really
>the case that a particular business is better off financially by
>making all the software they produce free? It may be better that the
>industry/economy/world as whole would be better off, but businesses
>tend to do what's best for them, and best for them in the short term
>(hence privatizing everything, stocking up on IP, all sorts of stupid
>wasted energy that genuinely keeps the particular business in its
>position but holds everyone back collectively).
>Free software, IMHO, is produced in "enlightened self-interest", but
>if the open source (business friendly, better software, better
>development, etc) view is wrong, and free software isn't inherently
>better for business, then copyright is an excellent tool to protect
>free software (through copyleft licensing).
>Direct action
>What if we throw this framework out the window? Many grassroots social
>movements have depended on civil disobedience. Free software has no
>real form of protest. We, as users, can beg developers and companies
>to play nice and free their code (which makes no sense for businesses
>who make a killing off of proprietary software business models), and
>we can boycott, refuse to use proprietary software (as I think we
>should), but this is an extremely slow and painful way to get everyone
>using free software, truly impractical to expect from people.
>We can work within this scope of trying to fix laws and prevent worse
>laws from being enacted, but this is also slow and odds are not tilted
>in our favor. We can keep making free software, since we need that,
>but that's just enough to keep the dream alive. What can we do that
>truly disrupts the non-free media industry?
>Traditional tactics:
>Just to bang out a few of the worst...
>* Murder (just using Wikipedia's list of tactics): Certainly
>  disruptive. Could yield results. In cases where software freedom is
>  a matter of life and death (life and death is a bizarre
>  construction, because everything impacts human lives to varying
>  degrees, and sometimes the most indirect causes have the most
>  profound impacts), this could be an attempt to save more lives than
>  cost. On the other hand, it could just be murder. 
>* Assault: Scare tactic similar to murder.
>* Property destruction: If so much can be destroyed that it is no
>  longer profitable to make non-free works, then this could be an
>  effective tactic, even if it is marked as terrorism. On the other
>  hand, it would take a shit-ton of destruction and the type of people
>  willing to do that 
>* Sabotage: Usually requires insiders. Very risky. Similar effect on
>  perceived legitimacy. 
>Okay, so even when applied tactically (cutting off power or internet
>connection rather than burning down a building) we're probably all in
>agreement that those aren't good/feasible/sensible tactics. Let's move
>* Sit ins, human barricades, etc: Could disrupt a business but in the
>  unbelievable event that people would actually participate in such an
>  event, large market forces will dismiss the demand for free code as
>  communist, etc. 
>* Disruptive pranks: Make a mess or padlock gates to keep people from
>  working might have some impact, but again, this is probably stupid. 
>* Strikes, workplace occupations: Yeah, programmers are going to
>  demand their employers make code free and destroy the stable
>  business model that results in a paycheck? 
>These traditional tactics tend to be successful for issues more in the
>public eye. Are there no tactics that are particularly good at
>disrupting the business of proprietary software and non-free works?
>Does it really just boil down to educating users, begging non-free
>producers, and cheerleading for free ones? Are any of these tactics
>actually useful (or would they be, if we did a better job of educating
>people on free culture issues)?
>So, what ideas do you have for direct action techniques specifically
>to further free software and free culture?
>Here are some:
>* Piracy: but it doesn't make proprietary software free.
>* Leak source code: Illegal to use, any software which does will
>  likely have a tough time getting mass-adoption, but still awesome
>  for reverse engineering formats and protocols.
>* Hacktivism: These are cool, but usually not very democratic. Either
>  a capable person/group to deface a web page, or masses of people
>  would be required to DDoS one. Still, how cool would it be to have
>  the Sony website showing some images about DRM and suing hackers? 
>* Email bombing: Maybe, difficult to get mass participation.
>* Your idea here!

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