Freeing the Mind

Free Software and the Death of Proprietary Culture – Eben Moglen*

Free Thinking

I’ve been thinking about Libre Software and networked learning. I revisited a speech given by Eben Moglen back in 2003. It makes much more sense to read the whole speech but lets look at some of what he said.

The conversion to digital technology means that every work of utility or beauty, every computer program, every piece of music, every piece of visual or literary art, every piece of video, every useful piece of information–train schedule, university curriculum, map, chart–every piece of useful or beautiful information can be distributed to everybody at the same cost that it can be distributed to anybody. For the first time in human history, we face an economy in which the most important goods have zero marginal cost. And the transformation to digital methods of production and distribution therefore poses to the twenty-first century a fundamental moral problem. If I can provide to everyone all goods of intellectual value or beauty, for the same price that I can provide the first copy of those works to anyone, why is it ever moral to exclude anyone from anything? If you could feed everyone on earth at the cost of baking one loaf and pressing a button, what would be the moral case for charging more for bread than some people could afford to pay? This represents the difficulty at which we find ourselves straining at the opening of the twenty-first century.

Vast institutions are committed to the social philosophy that only exclusionary practices inevitably involving the large-scale continuance of unnecessary ignorance are essential to the production of useful information. Vast economic rents are being extracted from the world, and enormous numbers of people are going unfulfilled in intellectual and aesthetic needs that we can provide for. One inevitable consequence of the continuance of that approach is that people are forbidden to share.

When I began working as a computer programmer for pay, in the early 1970s, there was a goal. Software developers had a purpose. The purpose was embodied in a four-word phrase: “Write once, run everywhere.” It meant, develop software which can be made to run on all of the hardware that even then rather heterogeneously populated society. It was, from the point of view of venture-capital funded, profit-making, investor-owned industries, an impossible goal, never achieved. We did it. GNU, Linux, and all the other thousands of programs in the free software world, run, as Rita correctly said, on everything. From the palmtop, the cell phone, and the single-purpose appliance–like the digital camera and the personal video recorder–to the mainframe. There was one purpose to software engineering overall throughout my lifetime, and we did it. The best-funded monopoly in the history of the world does not even try.

Thus we observe the new political economy of software. If you have a network and you share, you can achieve the ethical goal of allowing everybody to understand, to improve, to find and fix bugs, to create better software, and to share information in a way that allows them to improve their technical skills. Free software is the single greatest technical library on earth. I say that because free software is the only field where a person can go from naiveté, to the state of the art, in everything that a particular field contains, solely by reading material that is universally available at no cost everywhere the network exists. That is the single, greatest intellectual capital development program in the world. The legal system that makes that possible, the GNU General Public License, with which I have some intimate experience, achieves the creation of a greater and more extensive knowledge exchange program than any other in the world, at no cost. When my colleagues at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology decided to put their entire curriculum on the web–every course, every teaching material, every problem set, every examination–they were adopting the recognition that the principle of Western science, the principle of free software, and the principle of non-exclusion are the path of development for the twenty-first century, a proposition which has its capitalist echo in the behavior of IBM. But for a moment, I just want to concentrate your attention on the moral and political dimension of that activity.

This is the free software movement. I want to be very clear about that. The idea of “Open Source Software” is software that people can read, and I am for that. But it is important to understand that that inadequately describes what we were trying to do, or why. Dylan Thomas refers in “The Child’s Christmas in Wales” to the ideal Christmas present of the book that told everything about the wasp, except why. This is, from my point of view, the problem with the discussion about Open Source: it tells you everything, except why. I have now told you why.

For this reason, again I want to point out that the phrase “Open Source” does not capture what is really happening. What we are actually deciding is whether to free the network to be a network, or to control the network as a form of broadcasting–a form of proprietary distribution by a few favored individuals in which the remaining individuals are regarded as–the phrase is so familiar it rolls off the tongue without a second look–consumers. Meaning, non-producers, non-creators. We have become so accustomed to that model of that understanding of the human mind–that a few people create and the others consume–that we do not even recognize when we say it what it implies about the people in general. How anti-democratic our basic assumption is: there are some creators, and there are consumers. This is the moral question of the age. We mean to solve it. By freeing the technology that runs the network, we change the way the network operates as a connector of human minds. That’s the goal.

I hope find time to read the whole thing. The original image by by paul goyette AttributionShare Alike Some rights reserved.

Its NOT free trade if there is an agreement

Australia is about to be turned into a prison colony again.

The $65,000 question: do you own an iPod?

Owning an iPod, camera phone or a DVD recorder might be enough to land you in jail or lumbered with a large fine under the Federal Government’s proposed new changes to the copyright laws, experts warn.

As you know I’m a big fan of Free Software, Free Knowledge and Free Culture and the word Free is used because the person is free, its not a matter of zero price so I’m disgusted about how corrupt politicians try to get away with making stupid laws but this one wont really hurt me, I hope this will push you to explore the free world because you can make authorized copies of all the works and won’t have to deal with this problem besides all that do you really enjoy being a consumer of all that watered down phony read only once crap.

Wikipedia CD Distributed over BitTorrent

Sorry to copy this page, make sure you visit it and digg it.

A “Wikipedia CD” has been made available for download on The CD comprises of over 2500 hand-picked educational articles aimed at helping schools enhance their curriculum and children learn.

WikipediaThe CD has been compiled by volunteers for “the world’s largest orphan charity”, SOS Children. The articles, all of which are from the English language portal, are on common educational topics such as Geography, Science, Dinosaurs, Plants and Animals, to name a few. Articles on all countries and their capital cities have also been included.

Apparently, each of the articles has been “checked for suitability” and “cleaned by hand and script.” The CD is currently at release 1.0. Previous versions contained “disputed” articles relating to religion and politics, but they have subsequently been removed.

This CD is clearly aimed at schools and institutions with a slow, or non-existent connection to the Internet. Unlike Encyclopodia, the popular open source project that puts all of Wikipedia on your iPod, the Wikipedia CD is aimed at a younger audience who might find it hard to discern the clearly inaccurate or false from the ‘real’ information. It is a great effort, but at the same time one has to remember that the content on the CD is edited, and has therefore not been cross-checked by the innumerable people that frequent, contribute to and refine Wikipedia.

SOS Children did not have permission to use the Wikipedia logo, so it is not present on the CD, but they have recently been granted permission and it will appear on the next release in 2007.

Ogg/MP3 Player Java Applet and jQuery – Stallman speech and CRS

I’ve embeded jlGUI the java applet that looks like XMMS/winamp. It plays Ogg Vorbis and MP3’s. It can play them from a playlist. I’m also using jQuery the javascript library for the slide down affect, click on play Audio to see the player.

The audio I’ve used for the demo is Richard M. Stallman’s speech, Copyright and Globalization in the Age of Computer Networks, given at MIT and a few tracks from CRS : LA RUE NOUS GUETTE.

I’ll probably use this player next time I do a shoutcast.

More on Peter Shanks and Training Packages Unpacked

This is straight from Leigh Blackalls blog.

I just got off the phone with Peter Shanks, creator of the Training Packages Unpacked tool. It is a system that reaches into the MSAccess data base of the Australian National Training Information Service NTIS (a place that manages expressions of Australian competency standards or training units for qualification), and pulls it out of the PDFs and RTFS and redisplays the information that teachers and learners need on a web page for us web people to more easily reuse. Then he goes the full 9 yards and makes the newly formatted data available for those of us using wikis, Moodle, html, XML and an assessment spreadsheet. Now its just a simple process of finding the competency unit you are using for learning, teaching or assessment and copy pasting your prefered format into your prefered system. Read more

Here’s the audio of Peter and Leigh talking about all this today (3.5meg – 30 minutes – ogg file)

Training Packages Unwrapped – Peter Shanks

This is amazing work by Peter Shanks. Visit Training Packages Unwrapped.

Hello, Peter Shanks here. You might remember me from such web sites as ICA05 deconstructed and flicrCC. Come with me now as we explore the hidden world of TPU.

On this site I’ll be looking at how we can present the units of all the NTIS Training Packages in an easy-to-use format, with optional teaching resources such as moodle frameworks and tiddlyWiki’s .

Draconian Anti-Piracy Law Looms Over Australia

From Slashdot: “Draconian Anti-Piracy Law Looms Over Australia

ccozan writes to tell us of a law being rushed through the Australian legislature that would criminalize great swaths of the citizenry. The Internet Industry Association of Australia is posting warning scenarios spelling out how far-reaching this law would be. From the release: “A family who holds a birthday picnic in a place of public entertainment (for example, the grounds of a zoo) and sings ‘Happy Birthday’ in a manner that can be heard by others, risks an infringement notice carrying a fine of up to $1,320. If they make a video recording of the event, they risk a further fine for the possession of a device for the purpose of making an infringing copy of a song… The US Free Trade Agreement does not require Australia to go down this path, and neither US nor European law contain such far-reaching measures. We are at a total loss to understand how this policy has developed, who is behind it and why there is such haste in enacting it into law — with little if any public debate.”

Read more about these issues on lucychillis blog.

Online Scrabble with Free Libre Software

Previously we had a look at Pengupop and learning Spanish. This is more on the mark. I’ve been playing PyScrabble On-line with a few friendly Germans, its a real challenge playing scrabble in a new language but this is a useful way to use games in learning. So check out PyScrabble its available on windows and the source code is available for non-windows platforms. I installed it on Edubuntu and needed to install python-pygame to get it running.


Free Audio

I put together a list of links to sites that contain Free Audio. I get all my music from these sites as well as the sounds for my projects. Most people I know looking for music would probably like Jamendo, I know the bands you listen to might have fancy guitars and tattoos but they really are just a bunch manufactured girl/boy bands. You want real culture then get Free Culture.

Free Audio