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Paley: Why are the Freedoms guaranteed for Free Software not guaranteed for Free Culture?

Here is a "rantifesto" from Nina Paley, who is frustrated that the freedoms guaranteed by free software licenses aren't always present in other types of works. "Cultural works released by the Free Software Foundation come with 'No Derivatives' restrictions... The problem with this is that it is dead wrong. You do not know what purposes your works might serve others. You do not know how works might be found 'practical' by others. To claim to understand the limits of 'utility' of cultural works betrays an irrational bias toward software and against all other creative work. It is anti-Art, valuing software above the rest of culture. It says coders alone are entitled to Freedom, but everyone else can suck it. Use of -ND restrictions is an unjustifiable infringement on the freedom of others." (Thanks to Davide Del Vento).
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Paley: Why are the Freedoms guaranteed for Free Software not guaranteed for Free Culture?

Posted Jul 6, 2011 20:11 UTC (Wed) by spot (subscriber, #15640) [Link]

I had the chance to point this out to the previous director of the FSF, and he simply shrugged it off and said that the FSF didn't want people to take their documents and make changes that would confuse people.

Paley: Why are the Freedoms guaranteed for Free Software not guaranteed for Free Culture?

Posted Jul 6, 2011 22:10 UTC (Wed) by mikachu (guest, #5333) [Link]

It's really an idiotic argument, if I fork it and make changes to the program, I can't modify the existing documentation, I have to write a new one from scratch. (Same problem if someone else has to take over maintainership).

Paley: Why are the Freedoms guaranteed for Free Software not guaranteed for Free Culture?

Posted Jul 6, 2011 22:26 UTC (Wed) by atai (subscriber, #10977) [Link]

Huh? FSF software documentation is under the GFDL. Why can't you modify it?

Paley: Why are the Freedoms guaranteed for Free Software not guaranteed for Free Culture?

Posted Jul 6, 2011 23:52 UTC (Wed) by sfeam (subscriber, #2841) [Link]

"FSF software documentation is under the GFDL. Why can't you modify it?"
That is the heart of the complaint/question. The GFDL contains 15 explicit restrictions on your freedom to modify the text, including a blanket prohibition on modifying some sections. Why should this be acceptable?

Paley: Why are the Freedoms guaranteed for Free Software not guaranteed for Free Culture?

Posted Jul 7, 2011 14:24 UTC (Thu) by pbonzini (subscriber, #60935) [Link]

Most GNU packages do not use invariant sections, FWIW.

Paley: Why are the Freedoms guaranteed for Free Software not guaranteed for Free Culture?

Posted Jul 7, 2011 16:48 UTC (Thu) by pabs (subscriber, #43278) [Link]

Except for the ones FLOSS developers/users will likely want to refer to: gcc gdb autoconf make tar.

Paley: Why are the Freedoms guaranteed for Free Software not guaranteed for Free Culture?

Posted Jul 8, 2011 23:02 UTC (Fri) by liljencrantz (guest, #28458) [Link]

And bash. This bit me, as I'm the main author of fish, an alternative shell and wanted to reuse the bash documentation for ulimit. Couldn't do that because then I would have to use the Bash manual front page as the front page for fish, which would obviously be confusing for the users, to say the least. I pointed this out to RMS at an event a few years ago and he rather rudely brushed me aside, saying my concern was a non-issue.

Paley: Why are the Freedoms guaranteed for Free Software not guaranteed for Free Culture?

Posted Jul 7, 2011 16:49 UTC (Thu) by k3ninho (subscriber, #50375) [Link]

Then they need to use Trade Markings to ensure that people don't get confused between FSF-made and non-FSF stuff.

K3n.

Paley: Why are the Freedoms guaranteed for Free Software not guaranteed for Free Culture?

Posted Jul 6, 2011 20:34 UTC (Wed) by nicku (subscriber, #777) [Link]

Similar concerns have puzzled me. I started publishing my teaching material under a GFDL licence, then a creative commons licence, then finally I realised that the GPL seems best, just like for my code. I write in LaTeX after all, which is compiled. I asked Richard Stallman about whether he thinks using the GPL for teaching material is appropriate, and he just said, "Use the GFDL". I disagree.

Paley: Why are the Freedoms guaranteed for Free Software not guaranteed for Free Culture?

Posted Jul 6, 2011 20:50 UTC (Wed) by zonker (subscriber, #7867) [Link]

I don't see the problem here. The FSF releases a work that expresses opinion, of course they don't want to license it in a way that allows changes. Want to express a different opinion? Write something original. Code and culture are not the same thing.

Paley: Why are the Freedoms guaranteed for Free Software not guaranteed for Free Culture?

Posted Jul 6, 2011 22:11 UTC (Wed) by josh (subscriber, #17465) [Link]

Spoken like someone who hacks code and not culture. :)

Paley: Why are the Freedoms guaranteed for Free Software not guaranteed for Free Culture?

Posted Jul 7, 2011 14:17 UTC (Thu) by zonker (subscriber, #7867) [Link]

Um. I'm a writer, I do very little by way of code. If I want a license for most of what I write, I'd pick something that doesn't allow modification. If I'm writing pure documentation, I'd be happy with something that gives the four freedoms - but if I am writing anything containing opinion, I'd not want that modified.

Paley: Why are the Freedoms guaranteed for Free Software not guaranteed for Free Culture?

Posted Jul 7, 2011 14:43 UTC (Thu) by nye (guest, #51576) [Link]

>if I am writing anything containing opinion, I'd not want that modified.

That's an entirely orthogonal issue to the chosen copyright license.

Paley: Why are the Freedoms guaranteed for Free Software not guaranteed for Free Culture?

Posted Jul 7, 2011 16:18 UTC (Thu) by bjartur (guest, #67801) [Link]

I attended a recent speech by Stallman, which was recorded on at least two cameras. He explicitly requested the recordings to be licensed under CC-BY-SA-ND only (as it was a work stating his opinion). But the question is: would that forbid recutting the two video channels together, or replacing the video channel with e.g. a figure of Hitler, while keeping the audio track as-is?

Paley: Why are the Freedoms guaranteed for Free Software not guaranteed for Free Culture?

Posted Jul 6, 2011 22:35 UTC (Wed) by bug1 (subscriber, #7097) [Link]

"Code and culture are not the same thing"

The free culture movement is a social movement that promotes the freedom to distribute and modify creative works in the form of free content. - Wikipedia

Free software definitely fits in with the Free culture movement.

The problem is that software (and probably the FSF) is driven by people who are more technical that artistic. Technical people have difficulty seeing the big picture, artists have difficulty with details.

There should be a generalized copyleft license applicable for all type of copyrightable work. The closest you will get is creative commons licenses

Its very unfortunate the FSF dont appreciate and support the creative commons licenses. But whatever the FSF failings are, they are very good with software, thats enough.

Paley: Why are the Freedoms guaranteed for Free Software not guaranteed for Free Culture?

Posted Jul 7, 2011 1:38 UTC (Thu) by josh (subscriber, #17465) [Link]

The FSF does support Creative Commons when possible; for instance, the latest version of the GFDL included a provision specifically designed to allow Wikipedia to transition to CC-by-sa. However, the FSF doesn't unreservedly recommend Creative Commons, because not all Creative Commons licenses qualify as free. Quoting http://www.gnu.org/licenses/license-list.html#which-cc :

Creative Commons publishes many licenses which are very different. Therefore, to say that a work “uses a Creative Commons license” is to leave the principal questions about the work's licensing unanswered. When you see such a statement in a work, please ask the author to highlight the substance of the license choices. And if someone proposes to “use a Creative Commons license” for a certain work, it is vital to ask immediately, “Which one?”

Of course, as there is a range of options for a range of opinions/wishes

Posted Jul 7, 2011 14:39 UTC (Thu) by gwolf (subscriber, #14632) [Link]

The FSF wants us to believe they promote software freedom, period. However, that's sadly quite far from truth. Of course, there is a gradient in the licenses they offer for code (although they explicitly recommend not to use the LGPL); Creative Commons is... lets put it this way, is much less maximalist — CC tries to attract authors into making their cultural works closer to being free. CC has also deprecated some of their licenses (i.e. the "disadvantaged countries"), but besides that, it offers a wide array of options — All derived from the premise that culture must be shared. Some is Free, some is not (i.e. the NonDerivs or NonCommercial parts).

But yes, the FSF is promoting non-fre cultural works. Culture is culture, the same as code is code. The GFDL with invariant sections smells very similar to a GPLed Linux source tree with binary blobs. The blobs are not "substantial" for the kernel to work, however, their being part of Linux makes the whole tree "tainted". Same for the FSF manuals.

Paley: Why are the Freedoms guaranteed for Free Software not guaranteed for Free Culture?

Posted Jul 7, 2011 1:58 UTC (Thu) by mjg59 (subscriber, #23239) [Link]

The biggest practical problem with the GFDL is that it assumes that derivative works will be of the same form as the original work. It's not practically possible to extract samples of GFDLed work and associate them with a specific example if the original work includes invariant sections, for example. rms has said that he feels that such uses would be protected by fair use and so aren't problematic, but there are jurisdictions which have no direct equivalent to fair use. Licenses which only permit reasonable uses by virtue of the nature of a given country's copyright law aren't meaningfully free.

use of restrictions on opinion pieces

Posted Jul 7, 2011 12:39 UTC (Thu) by pjm (subscriber, #2080) [Link]

> The FSF releases a work that expresses opinion, of course they don't want to license it in a way that allows changes.

Of course it's not OK to put words in other people's mouths. However, not all possible derivative works of an opinion piece do that. Many works that state an opinion, including FSF works, include reasons for that opinion. It would be useful to society (and indeed presumably to the goals of the original author) if others could further refine the arguments made, so long as the resulting work did not purport to be the opinion of the original author.

use of restrictions on opinion pieces

Posted Jul 7, 2011 14:20 UTC (Thu) by zonker (subscriber, #7867) [Link]

"It would be useful to society (and indeed presumably to the goals of the original author) if others could further refine the arguments made, so long as the resulting work did not purport to be the opinion of the original author."

There's no reason that a person couldn't refine arguments in a new work. There's no way for the license to ensure that follow-on works are going to concur with the original author's opinion, so it's simply unsuitable to use a license that allows unrestrained modification.

use of restrictions on opinion pieces

Posted Jul 7, 2011 14:45 UTC (Thu) by nye (guest, #51576) [Link]

>There's no way for the license to ensure that follow-on works are going to concur with the original author's opinion, so it's simply unsuitable to use a license that allows unrestrained modification.

So why is it suitable for software? The blatant hypocrisy here stinks like old milk on a hot day.

use of restrictions on opinion pieces

Posted Jul 7, 2011 16:25 UTC (Thu) by mrfredsmoothie (guest, #3100) [Link]

Because opinions aren't software? Doesn't seem like hypocrisy at all to me, more an instance of "different tool for a different job."

use of restrictions on opinion pieces

Posted Jul 7, 2011 16:31 UTC (Thu) by nye (guest, #51576) [Link]

>Because opinions aren't software? Doesn't seem like hypocrisy at all to me, more an instance of "different tool for a different job."

How is it a different job? Documentation isn't software. Artwork isn't software. A text editor isn't an image editor. A web browser isn't a shell script. Why is one thing suitable for all of these, but suddenly unsuitable for the thing that you do? In what way are you a beautiful and unique snowflake, but everyone else should share and share-alike? (Not necessarily you personally, but the people expressing this opinion)

use of restrictions on opinion pieces

Posted Jul 7, 2011 16:47 UTC (Thu) by mrfredsmoothie (guest, #3100) [Link]

Text editors, image editors and shell scripts are all software, and art and documentation -- when distributed with the software -- are presumably ancillary works which relate somehow to the software (e.g. in the case of the documentation, explaining the software). So, in an important sense, they are part of the software.

On the other hand, a poem in the Atlantic, or a painting hanging in MoMa presumably have nothing to do with software.

Hence it seems somewhat reasonable to suggest that the world is made up of at least 2 kinds of things, "software stuff" and "not software stuff," and equally reasonable to posit that different moral or legal rules ought to apply to them; at least reasonable enough to shield the one saying it from accusations of hypocrisy.

use of restrictions on opinion pieces

Posted Jul 7, 2011 16:56 UTC (Thu) by nye (guest, #51576) [Link]

>Hence it seems somewhat reasonable to suggest that the world is made up of at least 2 kinds of things, "software stuff" and "not software stuff,"

Sure, but that distinction is entirely arbitrary.

> and equally reasonable to posit that different moral or legal rules ought to apply to them; at least reasonable enough to shield the one saying it from accusations of hypocrisy.

I could say the same about 'green stuff' and 'not-green stuff'. Or indeed 'stuff written by me' and 'stuff written by you'. The whole *point* of hypocrisy is that the hypocrite arbitrarily divides things into two categories depending upon whether or not it applies to themselves.

use of restrictions on opinion pieces

Posted Jul 9, 2011 11:31 UTC (Sat) by JanC_ (guest, #34940) [Link]

Traditionally, artists have been re-using artwork from other artists for as long as art existed (and that includes several works in MoMa, I'm sure), so what's different about art?

use of restrictions on opinion pieces

Posted Jul 7, 2011 16:26 UTC (Thu) by dgm (subscriber, #49227) [Link]

Opinions are something personal, software is not.

use of restrictions on opinion pieces

Posted Jul 9, 2011 11:38 UTC (Sat) by JanC_ (guest, #34940) [Link]

Many developers consider the way they write & construct a program is a personal opinion. Otherwise why all the rants in the free software community about choice of programming paradigm, (not) using a certain library or tool, code formatting style, project goal disagreements, ... ;)

use of restrictions on opinion pieces

Posted Jul 8, 2011 0:44 UTC (Fri) by pjm (subscriber, #2080) [Link]

> There's no reason that a person couldn't refine arguments in a new work.

Similarly, there's no reason people couldn't refine <software package> in a new work, except that in both cases (a) it's more work that way, which can be enough to prevent that new work getting created, and (b) it's not a refinement, it's a rewrite, and you'd introduce new bugs.

> There's no way for the license to ensure that follow-on works are going to concur with the original author's opinion, so it's simply unsuitable to use a license that allows unrestrained modification.

I don't see how that conclusion follows from the premise. Adding more arguments might indeed develop a more nuanced ("different") conclusion, though that would presumably be a good thing.

use of restrictions on opinion pieces

Posted Jul 8, 2011 3:07 UTC (Fri) by pjm (subscriber, #2080) [Link]

> There's no way for the license to ensure that follow-on works are going to concur with the original author's opinion, so it's simply unsuitable to use a license that allows unrestrained modification.

As a thought experiment, what would you think of a license that said "You may modify and distribute so long as [...] and your conclusions are the same as mine." ?

(Incidentally, I don't think anyone's suggested allowing "unrestrained modification": even the GPL places some constraints. The question we're trying to answer is what the ideal restraints/constraints should be, and to find whether and how common choices such as "verbatim only" could be improved.)

Paley: Why are the Freedoms guaranteed for Free Software not guaranteed for Free Culture?

Posted Jul 7, 2011 0:20 UTC (Thu) by marduk (subscriber, #3831) [Link]

All culture sucks. Why would anyone want to copy them?

Paley: Why are the Freedoms guaranteed for Free Software not guaranteed for Free Culture?

Posted Jul 7, 2011 0:55 UTC (Thu) by klbrun (subscriber, #45083) [Link]

>All culture sucks. Why would anyone want to copy them?

In order to poke fun at them using satire, etc.

Paley: Why are the Freedoms guaranteed for Free Software not guaranteed for Free Culture?

Posted Jul 7, 2011 16:28 UTC (Thu) by dgm (subscriber, #49227) [Link]

Satire is allowed by copyright law (fair use). You don't need a license for that.

Paley: Why are the Freedoms guaranteed for Free Software not guaranteed for Free Culture?

Posted Jul 7, 2011 17:39 UTC (Thu) by mjg59 (subscriber, #23239) [Link]

Fair use is not universal.

Paley: Why are the Freedoms guaranteed for Free Software not guaranteed for Free Culture?

Posted Jul 11, 2011 13:51 UTC (Mon) by dgm (subscriber, #49227) [Link]

Copyright law is not universal, either.

Paley: Why are the Freedoms guaranteed for Free Software not guaranteed for Free Culture?

Posted Jul 7, 2011 1:47 UTC (Thu) by njs (guest, #40338) [Link]

All online comments suck. Why would anyone want to copy them?

Paley: Why are the Freedoms guaranteed for Free Software not guaranteed for Free Culture?

Posted Jul 7, 2011 13:20 UTC (Thu) by pspinler (subscriber, #2922) [Link]

s/copy/reply to/

GFDL dual licensed with GPL

Posted Jul 7, 2011 1:44 UTC (Thu) by nevets (subscriber, #11875) [Link]

I wrote the ftrace.txt document that's in the kernel Documentation/trace directory. I first published it under the GFDL 1.2 license. After some people complained about it, which I agreed with, I decided to dual license the work under the GPL v2 as well. That should confuse lawyers for the next 42 years ;)

Paley: Why are the Freedoms guaranteed for Free Software not guaranteed for Free Culture?

Posted Jul 7, 2011 5:53 UTC (Thu) by pabs (subscriber, #43278) [Link]

She covered only licensing in this rant, I hope in the future she covers the preferred forms for modification stuff too. Especially since she was also bitten by that in the past; it is not possible to rebuild Sita Sings the Blues from source using only Free Software. On the other hand I'm not sure GPL-style copyleft is appropriate for Free Culture, simply because the current tools allow for greater possibility of remixing already built works.

Attribution is another interesting aspect to cultural works, especially things like wikis.

I think the Free Culture movement has a lot of introspection, discovery and reflection to do in the coming years.

Paley: Why are the Freedoms guaranteed for Free Software not guaranteed for Free Culture?

Posted Jul 7, 2011 7:14 UTC (Thu) by pabs (subscriber, #43278) [Link]

On the attribution thing, it looks like Nina has some thoughts on that too:

http://blog.ninapaley.com/2011/06/27/credit-is-due/

Paley: Why are the Freedoms guaranteed for Free Software not guaranteed for Free Culture?

Posted Jul 7, 2011 18:14 UTC (Thu) by renox (subscriber, #23785) [Link]

Thanks for the link, very interesting.

Paley: Why are the Freedoms guaranteed for Free Software not guaranteed for Free Culture?

Posted Jul 7, 2011 8:32 UTC (Thu) by cate (subscriber, #1359) [Link]

GFDL is not for created for culture. It has a restricted domain: Documentation. And IIRC FSF doesn't recommends GFDL for text (and art) outside strict documentation.

Paley: Why are the Freedoms guaranteed for Free Software not guaranteed for Free Culture?

Posted Jul 7, 2011 8:38 UTC (Thu) by ballombe (subscriber, #9523) [Link]

I once was at a conference about free culture were the talker (an art professor) argued that art was about fostering communication and exchange between human beings, and that 'No derivatives' was enforcing unilateral communication (from an 'authority' to the public), and that unilateral communication was propaganda and not art.

Paley: Why are the Freedoms guaranteed for Free Software not guaranteed for Free Culture?

Posted Jul 7, 2011 14:26 UTC (Thu) by zonker (subscriber, #7867) [Link]

That's a particularly silly and shallow argument from an art professor, perhaps they should reference the dictionary for a better understanding of what propaganda is. If I paint or draw or write something that's expressing my feelings about something, it's not "propaganda" to say "this is *my* take on this" and want to own it.

Anyone else is free to create their own piece of art that expresses their opinion or feelings or whatever. I'm all for artists who do want to use licenses for remixing - but I see no harm or "propaganda" because Neil Gaiman doesn't let people remix Sandman, or H.R. Gieger doesn't let people create derivatives of his work.

Paley: Why are the Freedoms guaranteed for Free Software not guaranteed for Free Culture?

Posted Jul 7, 2011 14:50 UTC (Thu) by nye (guest, #51576) [Link]

>I'm all for artists who do want to use licenses for remixing - but I see no harm or "propaganda" because Neil Gaiman doesn't let people remix Sandman, or H.R. Gieger doesn't let people create derivatives of his work.

Sure, but what people *do* have a problem with is when an individual says something to that effect but *also* claims that proprietary software is harmful, because those two viewpoints can only be reconciled if you consider the latter argument to be made out of naked self-interest.

Paley: Why are the Freedoms guaranteed for Free Software not guaranteed for Free Culture?

Posted Jul 7, 2011 16:38 UTC (Thu) by mrfredsmoothie (guest, #3100) [Link]

because those two viewpoints can only be reconciled if you consider the latter argument to be made out of naked self-interest.

Are you sure that's the only way to reconcile those two statements? I can think of at least a few others. For example, "proprietary software is harmful because it prevents people from discovering how their computers work." Another good one is, "proprietary software is harmful because it potentially hides security flaws."

I'm sure I could keep going. Your analysis in this thread seems to me to be based on a failure to make distinctions where actual distinctions exist.

"The dogma in this thread stinks like old milk on a hot day." --nye

Paley: Why are the Freedoms guaranteed for Free Software not guaranteed for Free Culture?

Posted Jul 7, 2011 16:51 UTC (Thu) by nye (guest, #51576) [Link]

>Are you sure that's the only way to reconcile those two statements? I can think of at least a few others. For example, "proprietary software is harmful because it prevents people from discovering how their computers work." Another good one is, "proprietary software is harmful because it potentially hides security flaws."

Those two statements only apply to 'proprietary software *that I am forced to use*', so no I don't agree that they are an appropriate response.

I think the point you're making is that you can pick a category of things (software in this case) and construct some detail so specific to that category that it makes that category appear somehow 'special' and unlike any other; the problem with that is that you could do the same thing with any other category by picking different specific points, so ultimately the whole thing is a wash.

>"The dogma in this thread stinks like old milk on a hot day." --nye

As you have no doubt noticed but chosen to ignore, I've already pointed out that deliberately misquoting somebody in order to misrepresent their opinions is not relevant to the question of copyright licenses, as an entirely different category of law applies.

(Don't worry though; I'm not planning to sue you for libel.)

Paley: Why are the Freedoms guaranteed for Free Software not guaranteed for Free Culture?

Posted Jul 7, 2011 17:06 UTC (Thu) by mrfredsmoothie (guest, #3100) [Link]

I think the point you're making is that you can pick a category of things (software in this case) and construct some detail so specific to that category that it makes that category appear somehow 'special' and unlike any other; the problem with that is that you could do the same thing with any other category by picking different specific points, so ultimately the whole thing is a wash.

The whole purpose of having categories in the first place is to allow making useful distinctions between things. An example of a useful distinction in the non-software arena being "things that can eat me if I don't run away from them."

You seem to be arguing in the comments here that people who believe that there are useful distinctions to be made between software and (certain) other things are somehow morally bankrupt, or fools.

As you have no doubt noticed but chosen to ignore, I've already pointed out that deliberately misquoting somebody in order to misrepresent their opinions is not relevant to the question of copyright licenses, as an entirely different category of law applies. (Don't worry though; I'm not planning to sue you for libel.)

No doubt indeed (and I'm not worried, since it was clearly satire, but thank you anyway).

Paley: Why are the Freedoms guaranteed for Free Software not guaranteed for Free Culture?

Posted Jul 12, 2011 12:06 UTC (Tue) by nye (guest, #51576) [Link]

>You seem to be arguing in the comments here that people who believe that there are useful distinctions to be made between software and (certain) other things are somehow morally bankrupt, or fools.

I've been away for a few days and I don't really feel like going deeper into this any more, but I will state for the record that I do honestly believe that several of the posters in this thread are morally bankrupt.

In many cases, the real useful distinction between 'software' and 'not software' is that it's possible to make money by selling support and services related to software, but not to, say, photographs. That's a perfectly sensible reason to treat them differently, but not *one person* has come out and said that; they've all come up with laughably absurd claims that are so transparently disingenuous that I'm dumbstruck that they somehow expected not to be called on them.

And that's the last I have to say on this topic.

Paley: Why are the Freedoms guaranteed for Free Software not guaranteed for Free Culture?

Posted Jul 7, 2011 18:56 UTC (Thu) by zonker (subscriber, #7867) [Link]

"I'm not planning to sue you for libel."

Libel is only applicable in instances where a person intends and succeeds in publishing false and malicious statements that cause harm. It is not applicable to, say, remixing a work containing someone's opinion or statements and causing confusion that does not result in harm or is not malicious.

So libel does not help except in the most extreme cases. RMS, for instance, is pretty particular about his views - and he would no doubt be displeased if a remixed work caused people to think he supported "open source" as opposed to "free software." However, it's highly unlikely that any court would find someone guilty of libel if they reworked a document with his opinion if it were expressly licensed to allow it - even if they did confuse RMS' position.

Paley: Why are the Freedoms guaranteed for Free Software not guaranteed for Free Culture?

Posted Jul 7, 2011 10:17 UTC (Thu) by gowen (guest, #23914) [Link]

Adapted from a talk and slide show Nina Paley presented at the Open Knowledge Conference in Berlin on July 1, 2011:

So what do I want?

I want a UNPRINCIPLED Free Culture Movement.

I want Free Software people not to take Culture seriously. I want a Free Culture movement not guided by principles of Freedom, but by a love of cheese, just as the Free Software movement isn't guided by principles of Freedom. I want a name I cannot use that means something – the phrase “Free Culture” has always been meaningless, and is only used by blowhards, and is also the name of a famous book that is much better written than this rant, but is itself encumbered with Non-Commercial restrictions.

Does that answer the question?

Paley: Why are the Freedoms guaranteed for Free Software not guaranteed for Free Culture?

Posted Jul 7, 2011 12:27 UTC (Thu) by jku (guest, #42379) [Link]

What is your point? You can also take free software someone else made and modify it to do things the original author would never want to happen.

Paley: Why are the Freedoms guaranteed for Free Software not guaranteed for Free Culture?

Posted Jul 7, 2011 12:42 UTC (Thu) by gowen (guest, #23914) [Link]

You don't see a qualitative difference between modifying software functionality and modifying someone's attributed opinion? That is simultaneously unsurprising and utterly depressing.

Paley: Why are the Freedoms guaranteed for Free Software not guaranteed for Free Culture?

Posted Jul 7, 2011 13:07 UTC (Thu) by nye (guest, #51576) [Link]

>You don't see a qualitative difference between modifying software functionality and modifying someone's attributed opinion?

Irrelevant. Modifying someone's attributed opinion is libel and is not the topic at hand. You're derailing.

Paley: Why are the Freedoms guaranteed for Free Software not guaranteed for Free Culture?

Posted Jul 7, 2011 13:50 UTC (Thu) by gowen (guest, #23914) [Link]

RTFA:
Works that express someone’s opinion—memoirs, editorials, and so on—serve a fundamentally different purpose than works for practical use like software and documentation. Because of this, we expect them to provide recipients with a different set of permissions ...
The problem with this is that it is dead wrong.
Modifying someones attributed opinion is completely and 100% the matter at hand.

Paley: Why are the Freedoms guaranteed for Free Software not guaranteed for Free Culture?

Posted Jul 7, 2011 14:40 UTC (Thu) by nye (guest, #51576) [Link]

This is a red herring. A copyleft-like copyright license on a work that expresses somebody's opinion in no way allows the user to modify it as the basis for libellous statements, so this whole line of reasoning is moot.

Paley: Why are the Freedoms guaranteed for Free Software not guaranteed for Free Culture?

Posted Jul 8, 2011 6:36 UTC (Fri) by jku (guest, #42379) [Link]

I do see a difference, I was hoping you'd write your point out explicitly because I definitely don't see it as the cut and dry case you imply it is.

If you intend to misrepresent someone you can already do that without a copyleft license -- read the yellow press any day of the week to get plenty of examples. I could say the exact same things you said in your original comment using different words and call it an article on Nina Paley and and her attitude toward Free Culture.

In both cases (above example and the modification) I'd carefully avoid saying that these (modified things) are her ideas, just give the impression of it... In both cases a gullible reader would be left with the wrong impression and a smart reader would understand to check another source.

Paley: Why are the Freedoms guaranteed for Free Software not guaranteed for Free Culture?

Posted Jul 7, 2011 15:31 UTC (Thu) by bronson (subscriber, #4806) [Link]

So? I can also fork Gnu ls and make it print " brought to you by Carl's Jr." after every filename.

Some derived works will be worse than the original. Is that a good reason to sacrifice freedom?

Paley: Why are the Freedoms guaranteed for Free Software not guaranteed for Free Culture?

Posted Jul 8, 2011 23:58 UTC (Fri) by cmccabe (guest, #60281) [Link]

One thing to keep in mind is that even if you do fork, let's say, Firefox, you cannot necessarily call the resulting fork "Firefox." Mozilla has a trademark on that name.

So even if your forked version has 999 security holes and the home page defaults to "hail satan," users still won't associate that with the name "Firefox." You have to call it something else.

With political speech, you don't really ever have a trademark protecting your speech, so you might have to rely more on copyright law.

That being said, I don't think manual pages qualify as political speech. Since they're associated with a (presumably trademarked) program, you can just fall back on trademarks to protect you, and you don't need restrictive copyright licenses.

I mean, software like gcc contains documentation. Just try gcc -h sometime. So you can't argue that documentation should be under the GFDL without also arguing that the piece of code that handles "gcc --help" should be under the GFDL.

Paley: Why are the Freedoms guaranteed for Free Software not guaranteed for Free Culture?

Posted Jul 7, 2011 12:26 UTC (Thu) by maurizio.dececco (guest, #6585) [Link]

I tend to think that the real problems is that opinions do no share, and while material that do not brings opinion can be easily shared, for example music and technical documentation, the material that *does* bring opinions is more problematic.

For example, how Nina Paley would react if i publish an article,
copyright Maurizio De Cecco and Nina Paley, that is derived from her works and says something like

"Cultural works released by the Free Software Foundation come with 'No Derivatives' restrictions... Hopefully is that it is fully correct. ... To understand the limits of 'utility' of cultural works is essential ...."

And so on and so on ?

Maurizio

Paley: Why are the Freedoms guaranteed for Free Software not guaranteed for Free Culture?

Posted Jul 7, 2011 13:10 UTC (Thu) by tzafrir (subscriber, #11501) [Link]

IANAL, but I suspect such a usage violates the terms of e.g. CC-by 3.0 (section 4b). Actually claiming that the document was co-authored seems to violate even section 3b.

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/legalcode

Paley: Why are the Freedoms guaranteed for Free Software not guaranteed for Free Culture?

Posted Jul 7, 2011 14:25 UTC (Thu) by maurizio.dececco (guest, #6585) [Link]

I wouldn't claim is co-authored, and i could add all the information required by the section 4b, and the other sections. Anyway, the copyright of the derived work would be shared, and even if i repeat 100 times "the derived work do not represent the opinion of the original author", the name of the original author would stay there as copyright holder (i could not delete it even if i wanted), and my article, if properly exposed, would be found on google when looking for the author name.

And as a side point, i would have used the author work to defend the opposite cause the author intended to defend.

Even with all the precautions and licences you may put in place, the matters seems sensible to me.

Paley: Why are the Freedoms guaranteed for Free Software not guaranteed for Free Culture?

Posted Jul 7, 2011 14:46 UTC (Thu) by tzafrir (subscriber, #11501) [Link]

Why should she be upset? Because you were "lazy" and reused her work to expressed an opinion that is very different from hers?

Also note that according to the license, if she does not want her name to appear on the work she can require you to remove the attribution (end of 4a, beggining of 4b).

Paley: Why are the Freedoms guaranteed for Free Software not guaranteed for Free Culture?

Posted Jul 7, 2011 15:20 UTC (Thu) by bronson (subscriber, #4806) [Link]

That sounds similar to x.org, libreoffice, Jenkins, ChiliProject, or any other contentious fork. When people disagree, they take the source and pull it in their own direction. Free as in freedom.

Do you think the OpenOffice guys were happy with the LibreOffice fork, or that LibreOffice still embodies their opinions on how software should be distributed? Should they should have picked a license more like the GDFL?

Your hypothetical is bizarre. It's equivalent to, "how would you feel if I forked x.org and made it put unicorns and fairy music over everything?" Or, "what if I took Ubuntu and turned it into a fundamentalist Christian recruiting tool?"

Just like with software, if your forked article sucks, nobody will care. And, if it's awesome, then long live freedom!

Paley: Why are the Freedoms guaranteed for Free Software not guaranteed for Free Culture?

Posted Jul 8, 2011 15:19 UTC (Fri) by mrshiny (subscriber, #4266) [Link]

Forked software does a task differently than the original software (does it better, worse, differently, or maybe does a different but related task, or whatever). If people don't want to use it, they won't use it.

If you write an article and post it online, and any yahoo can come along and write a new article that looks just like yours, and people think it's yours, but the yahoo's version says the opposite of what you meant to say, and then when people search for your article they find the yahoo's version, then we have a different problem. If they are aware of the two versions, or that this isn't your work but is a derivative, then that may be ok, but if not, they may attribute the wrong statements to you.

Text and other "art" or "culture" are consumed and distributed in totally different manners than software, so having different rules about how they can be disseminated might make sense.

Paley: Why are the Freedoms guaranteed for Free Software not guaranteed for Free Culture?

Posted Jul 8, 2011 20:32 UTC (Fri) by bronson (subscriber, #4806) [Link]

Forked articles do their task differently than the original too. Are they really so different from software with respect to freedom?

"What if someone subverts my article and then promotes the hell out of it?" That's seen all the time in software! Here's an example: http://blog.l0cal.com/2011/07/07/these-companies-that-mis... Also see Gaim, Gimp, Inkscape, OpenOffice, etc.

You seem to think that anyone could change your article still be allowed to make it look like it came from you. Not true! CCSA 3.0: "You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work)." Very similar to the GPLv2 section 2a, no?

Attribution in derivatives

Posted Jul 7, 2011 14:54 UTC (Thu) by gwolf (subscriber, #14632) [Link]

It kind-of worries me that so many people say that free cultural works would permit others to modify the authors' opinions... No, if you substantially modify and distribute a cultural work (much the same as if you substantially modify a program), you should add your name to the list of authors, and specify you are based upon the original author's work.

Attribution in derivatives

Posted Jul 7, 2011 19:02 UTC (Thu) by zonker (subscriber, #7867) [Link]

That's lovely - but who's going to know where original author's opinions begin and end and where yours begin and end?

In attempting to paint all works that can be remixed/modified with the same brush, you're opening the door to a laundry list of problems that are entirely avoidable. Code is code, cultural works are cultural works. You can't even sensibly talk about all cultural works as a collective, because the efforts required to create and modify music are different than those required to create and modify paintings or books or essays or photos.

In short, the only hypocrisy I see is in the author of the piece screaming to treat unlike things as code because the author apparently wants rights that are allowed for code but not available to the unlike things. Next I suppose she'll be complaining that the FSF isn't applying the four freedoms to physical things owned by the foundation and its employees.

Attribution in derivatives

Posted Jul 8, 2011 0:45 UTC (Fri) by njs (guest, #40338) [Link]

I don't actually see that big a difference between someone starting from some prose that I wrote and using it to express a different opinion that I find regrettable, versus someone starting from some code that I wrote and using it to produce some software that I find regrettable. (Think: poorly designed, stupid bugs, security holes, ...) In both cases I'd be embarrassed to be associated with it, and would want to make sure it was clear that I did not endorse the derived product.

But in neither case do I see how that risk justifies making a legal requirement that no-one ever build on my work ever, it's mine, even the copy that you have is mine.

The attribution of opinion and the production of work are totally orthogonal issues. (Ask a political speech-writer about this some time...) If I want to exploit your name, I can make up stuff and stick your name on it, it's easy. (Ask Benjamin Franklin about that some time...) Or I can quote you selectively to give a bad impression while sticking within the bounds of fair-use, etc., etc. None of this has anything to do with copyright; copyright prevents others from benefiting from your work, not your name.

And geez. Since when is code not a cultural work? Maybe you just don't read much code?

Attribution in derivatives

Posted Jul 8, 2011 14:31 UTC (Fri) by zonker (subscriber, #7867) [Link]

"If I want to exploit your name"

Moving goalposts.

My point is that licensing a work expressing opinion in a way that allows re-working it opens the door to a lot of consequences that are undesirable for people who are adopting said license. That other problems exist in the universe is not an argument in favor of adding yet another problem.

Yes, ill-intentioned actors can indeed do those things. So what? That is not a rational argument to adopt a license that allows well-intentioned people or ill-intentioned people to do even more stuff that is undesirable by accident or on purpose.

Again: Cultural works, prose, etc. are not the same as code and vice-versa. Insisting they are, or wishing that they were, does not make it so. It's nice that free softare/open source have had an impact on other human endeavors, but that doesn't mean that all practices in the FOSS community apply equally well to other fields.

Attribution in derivatives

Posted Jul 8, 2011 16:11 UTC (Fri) by njs (guest, #40338) [Link]

I didn't mean to move the goalposts, I just can't figure out what your argument is.

> My point is that licensing a work expressing opinion in a way that allows re-working it opens the door to a lot of consequences that are undesirable for people who are adopting said license.

So what are these "undesireable consequences", then? I thought that they were (1) People might say things you don't like, (2) They might put your name on those things.

As for (1), I have a very strong objection to forbidding people take advantage of my work just because they might hold opinions I disagree with. Especially since they might also hold opinions I agree with. Especially since they *can* still express those opinions perfectly well without using my work; the ability to build on my work just opens the door to more creative work overall, it doesn't change how much of it I find objectionable.

And we already talked about (2); apparently that isn't what you're worried about, so never mind.

So the undesireable consequence that you're worried about: is it that people will do say things you don't like and you'll feel icky when you see that words you wrote have become associated with those things? Or something else?

> Again: Cultural works, prose, etc. are not the same as code and vice-versa. Insisting they are, or wishing that they were, does not make it so

I do insist that code is a type of cultural work. I think that's objectively true. That said, obviously there are differences between different sorts of work, so it's possible that they should be treated differently. But all the arguments you're making (AFAICT) could be made just as well about code. So *how* are they different, in a way that matters to this discussion?

difference between code and culture

Posted Jul 8, 2011 11:14 UTC (Fri) by rwp (guest, #75755) [Link]

I'm in agreement with folks who have posited there is a difference between code and culture. I suppose, though, that it is contingent on anyone stating a difference to explain what it is. Not so easy to do, but I'll take a stab at it. I'm mostly relying on intuition here, but I think that's the crux of the matter so I hope others will weigh in.

I would say most code is more akin to mathematics than to, say, literature. Mathematics is often described as the "hardest" of the hard sciences - not to say that it is hard to do (which it is at a high level), but that there can be no real disagreement among mathematicians: you are either demonstrably right or demonstrably wrong. From mathematics onward, all the academic disciplines get progressively "softer" - physics, chemistry, biology, psychology, sociology, political science (see how you have to include "science" in the title to even begin to claim some affiliation), literature, film, dance, etc.

There's an expression I like: "I wish my computer would do what I want it to do instead of what I tell it to do." All coders get that. Code is exacting. Culture is not. Code is specific. Opinions are not. That is the crux of the difference, to me.

difference between code and culture

Posted Jul 8, 2011 20:45 UTC (Fri) by bronson (subscriber, #4806) [Link]

I agree, but how does this apply to freedom and licensing?

difference between code and culture

Posted Jul 9, 2011 12:01 UTC (Sat) by JanC_ (guest, #34940) [Link]

> I would say most code is more akin to mathematics
> than to, say, literature.

Try sending a patch with a different indentation style/variable case/etc. than the original author prefers and then say that again? ;-)

Most[*] code is nothing but a bunch of learned and half-understood patterns thrown together in a collage that (hopefully) ends up to be useful for some purpose in the end. There is about as much math involved as when a good clothing designer creates a fancy dress...

[*] Of course some code requires a developer to do real mathematical thinking, but that's not true for most code out there.

difference between code and culture

Posted Jul 9, 2011 21:03 UTC (Sat) by vonbrand (guest, #4458) [Link]

Sorry, but mathematics and code are certainly an integral part of our culture. Just the same as physics, Hamlet, the trash published in the newspapers, van Gogh's paintings, the Sistine Chapel, and comics.

Paley: Why are the Freedoms guaranteed for Free Software not guaranteed for Free Culture?

Posted Jul 9, 2011 13:23 UTC (Sat) by pabs (subscriber, #43278) [Link]


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