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10.11.19

Guest Post: An Open Letter to Matt Lee Regarding freesw.org

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux at 12:26 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

By figosdev

Matt Lee
Via Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons CC BY 4.0

Summary: “I realise you and I probably don’t agree on very much. What I think we do agree on is the importance of getting Free Culture and Free Software right.”

Here is a great idea: https://freesw.org/

The webpage states: “Starting today we are going to start an effort to unite our community around our shared values and to document, promote and publicize any and all software, artwork, documentation, and supporting material that meets the Debian Free Software Guidelines.”

There are hints that this won’t just be about software:

“Thanks to the work of hundreds of thousands of individuals and dozens of organizations, we now have free and open music, movies, books, and encyclopedias, as well as software.”

The Free Media Alliance promotes this sort of idea and encourages people (including Lee) to pursue building such collections.

I would personally recommend that such a collection be licensed CC0, to maximise its usefulness to a global network of such libraries. Library-like Listings of works do not add value by restricting what other people can do with them; on the contrary, the more we build these libraries online the more we can contribute substantially to each others’ libraries — simply by managing our own.

I don’t have any details on the plans regarding freesw.org, nor do I assume that anybody will make use of any of this advice, but if they don’t then I would offer the same advice to anybody else creating a library online.

The choice to provide “supporting material that meets the Debian Free Software Guidelines” is a particularly good one. In the past, the DFSG was used to discourage people from choosing a “documentation license” over one suitable to OER; I support the GNU GPL but the “Free Documentation License” restricts paper copies.

For OER, restrictions on paper copies are not ideal, and the FDL was unsuitable enough that Wikipedia worked to migrate from that license to a proper Free Culture license for its encyclopedia project. Fortunately for us, the FSF helped them.

If textbooks are better off with Free Culture licenses, then we are better off scrapping special licenses for “documentation” and just use the better (also more free) OER standards. If those OER standards do not offer the 4 freedoms, then we should create a “Libre Education Resource” standard that does. GPL compatibility is a serious bonus.

As for this library, the easier we make it to find works (both software works and cultural works) under free licenses, the better these licenses and their associated freedoms will be known — the better promoted and considered by all as a means of communication and spreading intellectual freedom.

It was my hope, years ago, that Students for Free Culture would both change their name to the Free Culture Foundation and create a library such as the one Lee describes. Today, the Free Culture Foundation website seems to be missing, the freeculture.org wiki seems to be vandalised and even the Creative Commons wiki has deleted valuable data on freely-licensed books that they used to host.

What is it about Free Culture that makes people walk away?

As each iteration of a major Free Culture resource has risen and wavered, my hope is that we will finally build a collaborative network of libraries that together serve the many different needs, desires (and perhaps demands) of different people. Each year, more Free Culture and Free Software works are created. Free Software has a directory; Free Culture still lacks one (though I continue to find new things to add to the Alliance Library, and people are gradually contributing more works.)

I cannot even find the Free Culture Foundation’s collection now, but I predicted that what would keep them from growing was a very narrow definition of what they were looking for — the licenses weren’t the issue; it was their expectations of people and of works that I found too exclusive.

Speaking of which, I believe you still work for the FSF; would you ask whomever is in charge of email to stop censoring Daniel Pocock? Thanks.

I realise you and I probably don’t agree on very much. What I think we do agree on is the importance of getting Free Culture and Free Software right. That leaves a lot of things to differ on, but make no mistake — I would like freesw.org to succeed. My hope is that it gets the most important things right.

Long Live Stallman and Happy Hacking.

Licence: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0

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