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Necessary freedoms for information society


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A presentation from the Document Freedom Day held at the European Parliament on March 30, 2011.

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Necessary freedoms for information society

  1. 1. Necessary freedoms for information society Kaido Kikkas Associate Professor, Estonian IT College Associate Professor of Social and Free Software, Tallinn University [email_address] Document Freedom Day European Parliament Brussels, March 30, 2011 This material is published under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike (CC BY-SA) 3.0 Estonia license
  2. 2. The paradigm shift <ul><li>José Luís Malaquias, “A New Economic System for the Information Era” (used to be at copyright.pdf, retrievable from
  3. 3. „The Gods Must Be Crazy“
  4. 4. The Bushmen vs the Coke bottle – a novel, desirable object that could not be replicated
  5. 5. WAS IT A BLESSING OR A CURSE? </li></ul>
  6. 6. You can never get enough <ul><li>Resources: scarcity =>value
  7. 7. Example: value of water for the Vikings vs the Bedouins
  8. 8. Earlier: wars over resources
  9. 9. Later: „civilised discussion“ and agreements
  10. 10. Entrenchment of the „scarcity meme“ </li></ul>
  11. 11. Information, the weird resource <ul><li>Spreads almost exclusively by multiplication: </li><ul><li>I have two apples. I give one to you. I have one.
  12. 12. I know two jokes. I tell one to you. I know... two? </li></ul><li>Has never before been the dominating resource
  13. 13. Most of the legal system has only learned to follow the scarcity meme
  14. 14. Now what? </li></ul>
  15. 15. Yochai Benkler: <ul><li>Information production is inherently more suitable for nonmarket strategies than industrial production
  16. 16. Rapid spread of nonmarket production, widening base
  17. 17. effective, large-scale cooperative efforts in peer production of information, knowledge, and culture
  19. 19. Everything you know is wrong <ul><li>Mindquake – the term coined by Robert Theobald to denote a „break point“ where one's previous knowledge loses its validity. An example: people of the former Eastern bloc had to re-learn many things from economy to culture
  20. 20. Is a mindquake happening in the IP issues..? </li></ul>
  21. 21. Old Man Paragraph and the Internet Kid <ul><li>A main problem is also the difference of the very paradigm </li><ul><li>A good law is one which does not change
  22. 22. A good technology is constantly evolving </li></ul><li>E.g. A major criticism of the US Patriot Act of 1991 was the speed of its adoption – the flashing 5 weeks after 9/11!
  23. 23. What happens in IT sector in 5 weeks?
  24. 24. How can static laws control dynamic IT...? </li></ul>
  25. 25. The topic of the day <ul><li>Document freedom – a crucial ingredient
  26. 26. Free flow versus artificial scarcity
  27. 27. Closed formats as the hothouse of lawsuits: </li><ul><li>Technical (you need program X – and don't you dare to 'pirate' it). Fine print: pirates are typically equipped with peg legs, rum and parrots (Arrrr!), not laptops
  28. 28. Legal (our firm owns the patent for the Meowtastic font which is deeply embedded into the document) </li></ul><li>Don't eat or let others eat – everyone will starve (Word 2.0 documents were a good example)
  29. 29. Most importantly will short-circuit lots of cooperative efforts (due to requirement chain) </li></ul>
  30. 30. The four freedoms <ul><li>As outlined by the GNU GPL, the dominating free software license (paraphrased): </li><ul><li>Use and copy
  31. 31. Study
  32. 32. Modify
  33. 33. Develop new things under the same conditions </li></ul><li>Result: ”you will get rich because you are the best at the job” rather than ”you will get rich because your grandfather patented the Y”
  34. 34. A warning example: </li></ul>
  35. 35. Necessary things <ul><li>Openness that does not kill enterprise – new business models (more service than product oriented - ”don't sell software, rather sell brains behind it”)
  36. 36. Freedom that is hard to exploit – scenarios like ”first we eat your bread and then everyone eats his own” need to be prevented (by law if necessary: the copyleft principle is a prime tool for that)
  37. 37. Document freedom can help to achieve both </li></ul>
  38. 38. Some tools <ul><li>EUPL
  39. 39. GPL license family – GPL, LGPL, AGPL
  40. 40. In some cases, non-copyleft licenses like BSD, MIT, X11 licenses
  41. 41. Creative Commons content license family
  42. 42. Note: compatibility remains an issue </li></ul>
  43. 43. Pekka Himanen on Europe <ul><li>The Challenges of the Global Information Society by Pekka Himanen, written for the Finnish Parliament (back in 2004). According to him, Europe must choose, where to go: </li><ul><li>The US model - „leaving the weak behind“ ends up with gated communities and high crime
  44. 44. The Singapore model – the „tax paradise“ needs far too cheap labour force to be usable
  45. 45. The Old Europe model – a welfare state turning into a „society of envy“ with total stagnation </li></ul><li>The fourth way – the proactive society! </li></ul>
  46. 46. Conclusions <ul><li>“ For the world is changing: I feel it in the water, I feel it in the earth, and I smell it in the air ” - Fangorn (Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien)
  47. 47. Information (and knowledge) society implies free flow of information which is largely nonmarket
  48. 48. The legal system must adapt better
  49. 49. Business will survive (monkey business perhaps not)
  50. 50. Europe has to decide whether to play along </li></ul>
  51. 51. Recommended further reading <ul><li>Pekka Himanen ( Hacker Ethic a.o.)
  52. 52. Larry Lessig ( Free Culture a.o.)
  53. 53. Yochai Benkler ( The Wealth of Networks a.o.)
  54. 54. Peter Barnes ( Capitalism 3.0 )
  55. 55. Robert Theobald ( The Rapids of Change a.o.)
  56. 56. Christopher Kelty ( Two Bits )
  57. 57. ...
  58. 58. (a collection) </li></ul>
  59. 59. Thank you The slides will be available at