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[libreplanet-discuss] What ideas do you have for direct action technique

From: Danny Piccirillo
Subject: [libreplanet-discuss] What ideas do you have for direct action techniques to further free software and free culture?
Date: Sun, 15 Apr 2012 23:48:07 -0400


tl;dr: What kind of direct action protests can we do to fight non-free software and cultural works?

(Don't take this too seriously, and just skip to the end to get the the crux of the issue)

There is a debate within the free culture and free software communities (presented within the scope of software, where it is most relevant):

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.

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...

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 on...

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:

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