Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Thoughts on Open Source Users and Freedom

I posted this over at BytesFree.org. The subject matter is about Linux, specifically, but really it could apply to any Open Source software user. Re-posting below:

Over at the TuxToday blog, there’s a post about Linux users not caring about freedom - because they’d rather just use Adobe’s Flash plugin in lieu of Free Software like Gnash. Or they think Richard Stallman and the FSF are morons who are hurting the Open Source movement.

I’m torn by this argument, because I can see both sides of this. On one hand, it is true that fewer Linux and FLOSS users today care about the “free” in Free Software, and I lament this occurrence. On the other hand, however, I would be remiss not to point out that, at times, the FSF and Richard Stallman can be their own worst enemies. Note, however, that I am in full agreement with the stated goals of the FSF.

Also, we must understand why this phenomenon is taking place. I think a big part of it is that simply Free Software has expanded beyond the traditional techno-libertarian space it once occupied. And furthermore - and this is why groups like BytesFree.org even exist at the moment - we have done a very poor job of explaining to people why they should care. If you look beyond the techno elite, very few people understand the underlying problems of the lack of protected freedoms in the digital space.

This is why BytesFree.org is dedicated to the idea that everyone deserves the protected right to access what we own, on our terms. Because identifying the problem in that language makes it apparent to the layman what is wrong, ie. we *don’t* currently have the protected right to access what we own. And in fact, with laws like the DMCA, not only do we not have that right, but we can run afoul of the law simply by acting on the supposition that we have that right.

We believe that the secret to these issues lies in addressing them in a language that everyone can understand. This is about the right to education, our mandate as human beings to wipe out the digital divide and ensure tech access for everyone, and the simple fact that the prominence of technology in 2008 raises information rights to the level of human rights. Note the term I chose there: information rights. Not “digital rights”. “Digital rights” seems to be a term reserved for the technorati, something that everyday people need not care about. “Information rights” - ok, that’s a term more people can identify with.

So, if we want things to change, we’re going to have to get organized and make an effort to speak “right down to earth, in a language that everybody can understand.” At BytesFree.org, we’re working on political efforts to make sure that both politicians and the non-techie audience can understand why we care.

Won’t you consider joining bytesfree.org?

1 comment:

rpetersen said...

You've defined the problem perfectly:

"If you look beyond the techno elite, very few people understand the underlying problems of the lack of protected freedoms in the digital space."

Every step we take forward in making everyday people more aware of - and conversant in - the language of information rights is a step forward for our society.

Not long ago, Net Neutrality was an esoteric concept. Now it's on the (better) news shows. I just signed up for Bytesfree-discuss. Looking forward to the discussion!