Free Me: a DVD about free culture and free software

Free Me: a DVD about free culture and free software


A DVD that comes with lots of great examples of Free Culture which plays in your DVD player, with even more examples when you put it in your computer – including a GNU/Linux Live CD. The idea is simple: help to get the word out about Free Culture, including Free Software, by showing off what's already been achieved; the thing is, we need your help!

Before we get started on the rest of this article I would like to make it clear that the term "Free Culture" as used here refers to my own belief that many different elements - i.e. software, literature, music, photos, videos, creative commons, GNU etc - are all part of a greater whole. Some things that I might have included under the term "Free Culture", others might not have: the best I can do here is to point you in the direction of the sites of other organisations to get a feel for what they feel constitutes Free Culture. I'm very aware that I might step on a few toes here, so if you think I am stepping on your toes please send some feedback and we'll see if we can work around it.

Back to the project! Through the first few months of this year I'd been doing a lot of reading, mostly of books and essays like Free Software, Free Society by RMS and Free Culture by Lawrence Lessig: I was so inspired by these texts, and so concerned about some of the issues they presented, I wanted to let my MP know about them. Initially I was just going to forward him a copy of the texts, as is permitted by their licenses, but then I remembered a campaign I'd heard about quite a while ago called "iPods for Senators" where they'd sent iPods full of less restrictively licensed material (i.e. Creative Commons, Public Domain etc) to help raise awareness of the issues surrounding digital technology and copyright law.

I knew I didn't have the money to send out iPods but I thought I could put together a DVD, which would even allow me to include a GNU/Linux Live CD! This is exactly what I've done. The DVD has a range of video content – including movies like Elephants Dream and the animated short Trusted Computing – which will play in your DVD player; a whole load of Creative Commons licensed music and photos which you can enjoy from your computer; books that are now in the public domain (including some real classics) and books which are released under some sort of permissive license, i.e. Verbatim or CC; the icing on the cake, in my opinion, is the inclusion of Knoppix with all of the media on the desktop for you to enjoy!

I plan to send this disc out to M.Ps, relevant journalists and friends at university; hopefully the content will be varied and interesting enough to grab their attention and lead them on to find out more about Free Culture. Thanks to Benjamin Stephan and Christoph Haag from Lafkon (Trusted Computing animation) the packaging will be so attractive it will grab people's attention before they've even put the disc in the drive!

Where I need your help is the website: we've put a URL on the case for people to visit and find out more information – more of a stepping stone than anything else: I've put up some basic information on the site to get people started and loads of links to other organisations and sources of content. We really want the information on the site to be as clear and informative as possible, hopefully this will help us make a really good impression on people who come across the disc, and as part of this I'd like to invite people to visit the site and critique it!

The target audience is obviously people new to the idea of Free Culture, but who are likely from a wide range of backgrounds (as shown by M.Ps, journalists and students!). The range of the content on the site already reflects the topics I'd like it to cover but I believe it needs editing and refining, probably more links adding etc. Also, we're looking for some hosting so that we can make the disc available for download: my current host doesn't have nearly enough bandwidth for a DVD and my ISP throttles bit torrent – any offers of help in this department would be welcome too (I'm thinking about submitting it to Ibililio or the Internet Archive) :D

I'm aware that in the EU we're pretty well off with respect to copyright and patent laws, certainly compared the USA, but I'd like to help keep it that way! Even here in Europe people are being sued for file sharing; neither are we safe from the threat of software patents (yes, that subject has come up again in the EU) so I feel these issues are definitely just as important here; I will be including a cover letter with the disc to M.Ps and journalists to explain how these issues apply to us. I'd also like to encourage more people to get involved with Free Culture, or even just raise people's awareness of the subject, and I hope that this disc might have some success with this.

I should point out that although I'm targeting the UK and Europe there's no reason why people from all around the world can't ask me to send them discs to help raise awareness all over!

Please keep your criticisms constructive and hopefully we'll make this as good as we can!

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Comments

Mauro Bieg's picture
Submitted by Mauro Bieg on

Great idea! I feel very much the same as you about 'Free Culture'. It really is a broader movement, but sadly most of the participants don't know what all the rest is doing and thinking. e.g. CreativeCommons not using free software... or Free Software advocats not valuing OpenAccess...

Actually, I'm writing on a smaller project which's aim it is to give a good and simple overlook over this movement, especially suited for newcomers. If it turns out well, I'm going to publish it on the 'Net and possibly set up a wiki, so participants from all over the movement can bring in their knowledge, change the text and maybe form also a parallel, more comphrehensive version.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

This sounds like an interesting idea. I would like to say a great idea, but the fact is that I am ignorant enough of the broader free culture scene that I wouldn't be able to say that until I actually see the DVD. Which I would like to. Since you wish to be paid for cost of postage, perhaps on your web site you could list estimates of what this would be for various areas. (Perhaps some ranges for each broad geographical region.) I live in the U.S.A. and I have no idea what postage might be. I would imagine there would be others over here who would also be interested in your DVD. You also might publish on your site acceptable payment methods. (Not everybody has Paypal or credit card.) I would think posting this info might cut down on the amount of email you would need to handle.

The other thing I would like to see addressed is the legality of duplicating and giving away copies of this DVD. I am guessing everything on it has no issues with noncomercial redistribution. But my impression (which may be wrong) is that just because all of the content may be redistributed, that does not necessarily hold for the DVD as a whole. (This may also vary by country.) If you wish to grant the right to duplicate and distribute, publishing it on your web site as well as having a file on the DVD stating this would be great.

Good luck with this project.

Jonathan Roberts's picture

Thanks for the replies :D

I'll be sure to add something to the DVD and website stating that you can freely redistribute the disc as a whole :D I'll also look in to adding a page with rough guidelines on how much it will cost to ship though I'll have to wait 'till I know how much the disc will finally cost to produce...

Also, thanks to Mauro's comments and good luck with your project! if you get a website together send me a link? because it sounds interesting and I'd like to have a look at it!

Thanks,

Jon

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Sure I'll send you a link! :D I hope I'll progress quickly...

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

First: Good idea.

Second: I just went and looked. Some of the stuff is not Free. If it has the NC restriction, it is not Free. This may not be a popular position, but I think it is correct.

If you really want to promote Free Culture, I suggest you don't taint it with the non-Free stuff. Your message will be fuzzy instead of loud and clear.

all the best,

drew

http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=zotzbro&search=Search

guydjohnston's picture

I completely agree that anything which doesn't allow commercial use isn't free as in freedom. However, I don't agree that that's an unpopular position. I know that Lawrence Lessig says a work which bans commercial use is free, but I don't think the majority of people in the free culture and free software movements agree with him. I definitely hope they don't. I also don't think that any work which doesn't allow derivative works is free.

The Definition of Free Cultural Works (http://www.freedomdefined.org) is more or less identical to the free software definition, and it seems to be becoming the most popular of that type of definition. Richard Stallman has even added a link to it on the free software definition page.

I think that including partially free stuff in this DVD is OK (as long as it at least allows noncommercial distribution) if you think it's useful to do so, as long you make it completely clear which works are completely free and which works aren't, and you include a definition of what you think constitutes a free cultural work (whatever that may be).

--
GNU - free as in freedom

Mauro Bieg's picture
Submitted by Mauro Bieg on

I also don't think that any work which doesn't allow derivative works is free.

It's probably not. But even Richard Stallman argues that derivative works aren't always a good thing. He devides works into functional ones, works of personal opinion and creative works. Many of his texts representing his personal opinion aren't under a derivatives-allowing license, but only verbatim copying is permitted. I think this does make some sense: he doesn't want his text completeley changed and still be made responsible for its content.

guydjohnston's picture

I agree that banning derivative works can be justified, my point is purely that I don't think they should be referred to as being completely free (as in freedom).

--
GNU - free as in freedom

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

http://wiki.creativecommons.org/DiscussionDraftNonCommercial_Guidelines

You might want to check that link to get an idea of what all you can and cannot do if you include CC NC works.

all the best,

drew

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ls1QealrmLk

Jonathan Roberts's picture

I looked over that wiki page and I think from my intentions that I should be OK including NC stuff from the point of view of legal issues.

The moral issue however is trickier.

I recognised this problem when I started and gave it some thought; the conclusion I came to was to include the NC licensed materials because I believe they add genuine value to the DVD and to our culture as a whole - but I felt it was important to let people know that other people have different views of what constitutes a Free work, hence I've added a paragraph on the welcome page dedicated to this point and recommending that people look around the sites I've linked to, including Free Software Foundation and Freedom Defined.

The reason I feel these works add value is because even when licensed non-commercially they facilitate a massive expansion of what is available for the public to access: they allow people to learn from them, they allow people to be creative, to create derivative works, and they allow for a true historical record of our society as it is now and what it will develop in to. The other point is that even NC licensed material, from looking over that wiki page, allows you to charge for the costs of distribution under certain conditions and so doesn't restrict people's access to this.

This is at least my take - I hope I've expressed myself clearly but I doubt it!! Feel free to e-mail me or keep posting replies, discussion like this is good I think :D

Jon

Author information

Jonathan Roberts's picture

Biography

Currently a gap year student! I have a huge interest in Free Software which seems to keep growing. I run the Questions Please... podcast which can be found at questionsplease.org. On an unrelated note I'm reading theology at Exeter next year.