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A Free Culture Manifesto Via the Internet

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Jimmy has been warming up for his Wikimania Keynote on Larry Lessig’s blog, talking about 10 things that should be free.

The idea for this list comes from Hilbert’s problems. In 1900s Mathematician David Hilbert posed 23 problems, 10 were announced at a conference, the full list published later, very influential. He notes that all of these things were obvious, suggested or proposed by others.

10 Challenges for thee Free Culture Movement

1. Free the Encyclopedia!

Mission is to create a free encyclopedia for every person on the planet in their own language. For English and German, this work is done (of course there could be be quality control, etc.). French and Japanese in a year or so, ton of work to be done globally. Will be done in 10 years time, an amazing thing when you consider minority languages that have never had an encylopedia.

2. Free the Dictionary!

Not as far along, but picking up speed. A dictionary is only useful when it’s full of words you don’t know, unlike an encyclopedia. Needs software development, such as WikiData. It is structured information, for cross reference and search.

3. Free the Curriculum!

There should be a complete curriculum in every language. A much bigger task than the encyclopedia. Need not just one article about the Moon, but one for every grade level. WikiBooks isn’t the only one working on this project. The price of university textbooks is a real burden for students. The book market doesn’t take advantage of potential supply of expertise. Not hard to imagine 500 economics professors writing instead of one or two to create a better offering than the traditional model.

4. Free the Music!

The most amazing works in history are public domain but not many public domain recordings exist (even in classical music). Proper scores are often proprietary derivative works (such as arrangements for a modern orchestra). Volunteer orchestras, student orchestras could provide the music for free.

5. Free the Art!

Show two 400 year old paintings. Routinely get complaints from museums saying there is copyright infringements. National Portrait Gallery of England threatens to sue, a chilling effect, but they have no grounds. Controlling physical access keeps people from getting high quality images “I wouldn’t encourage you to break the law, but if you accidentally take a photo of these works it would be great to put it on Wikipedia for the public domain.

6. Free the File Formats!

Proprietary file formats are worse than proprietary software because they leave you with no ability to switch at a later time. Your data is controlled. If all of your personal documents are in an open file format, then free software could serve you in the future. Need to educate the public on lock-in. There is considerable progress here and continued European rejection of software patents is critical.

7. Free the Maps!

“What could be more public domain than basic information about location on the planet?” — Stefan Magdalinksi. FreeGIS software, Free GeoData. This will become increasingly important for open competition in mobile data services.

8. Free the Product Identifiers!

Hobby Princess blog Huge subculture of people making crafts, selling them on eBay, but need competition from distributors.

Increasingly, small producers can have a global market. Such producers need a clobal identifiers. Similar to ISBN, not ASIN (proprietary to Amazon). Suggests the “LTIN: Long Tail Identification Numbers” would be cheap or inexpensive to obtain (has to have some cost to fend off spam). Extensive database freely licensed and easly downloadable to empower multiple rating systems, e-commerc, etc. The alternative is proprietary eBay and Amazon. Small craft producers should be able to get a number and immediately gain distribution across them.

9. Free the TV Listings!

A smaller issue, it may seem. But development of free software digital PVRs is going on. Free-as-in-beer listings exist, but this is tenuous. Free listings could be used to power many different innovations in this area. Otherwise we will be in a world where everything you watch will be DRM’ed — so this is important.

10. Free the Communities!

Wikipedia demonstrates the power of a free community. Consumers of web forum and wiki services should demand a free license. Otherwise, the company controls the community. Similar to a feudal serf, company maintained communities have a hold on communities. Are you a serf living on your master’s estate, or free to move? Social compact: need to have Open Data and Openly Licensed software for communities to truly be free. Wikicities – for profit, free communities – founded by Jimmy and Angela. Free licensing attracts contributors.

He will be adding more on Larry Lessig’s blog over the coming weeks.

Q&A:

He also highlighted the Frankfurt Wikireader, a nicely bound collection of Wikipedia pages about Frankfurt, donated by Qoop.com that provides on demand printing. They are also talking to Lulu.com. 80% of the remaining format errors in this version have already been fixed. Books can be constructed on the site for re-use or constructed on the fly. Open standards to allow multiple vendors.

Call for #11 to be: Free the Search Engine! Agrees, says he will move it to #4. There are efforts, but it’s a huge challenge.

Call for #12: Free the Science! Jimmy says the data itself should be under a license, says it could be #7.

On #9, can’t ignore the fact that most people are locked into mainstream media — not just by offering an alternative model, but engaging the mainstream model and reforming it.

One commentator suggested that work needs to be done to simply unlock existing public domain archives (e.g. Geneology) and bring it together in one place. Jimmy says that this could be accelerated through community effort and some software development.

One great question: where do you get money for it? I’m talking free as in speech, not as in beer. People said the same about Free Software, but the business model emerged. Answers.com has a business that leverages Wikipedia information and is in line with their goals. It’s not up to us to answer the question of what happens to the candle makers with the invention of electric lighting.

Not a big advocate of increasing government spending on free software, because of the risk of control. On the other hand, there is an enormous amount of software development by governments that we can’t leverage. European Space Agency can’t release images under free license, unlike NASA, which makes no sense at all (they are talking).

If we had 1 million pounds a year as a budget, what would we do?

Someone gives the example of Andrew Rasjei running for NY Public Advocate and his support of municipal wireless. He notes that he is speaking as an individual in commenting on a political issue: He thinks that municipal wireless is a really bad idea. Could be free as in speech, not controlled by the municiple provider. He does support opening more spectrum. Thinks it will kill innovation. (Ross’ off the cuff scoff: Jimmy, this is simply wrong, the lack of competition without muni wireless and the level of innovation built upon the infrastructure far outweights the risk — bring communications back to the public trust).

Someone from the human rights activist community suggests that many of these constructs are either US or European or a developed Japan. But these freedoms are not so free in places like China. Jimmy says that while Chinese Wikipedia is growing. Have a tension between our radical openness and the need that some people have for privacy. Some people want to edit anonymously, a difficult issue because such open proxy anonymous editing can also be used for damage.

Mitch Kapor: Two kinds of open source licenses: GPL or BSD, which results in different ecologies. Wikipedia is a GPL license, which prohibits certain activities. If all open source was GPL, it was 1/10th or 1/100th of what is now. How could the ecology evolve? Jimmy: They made the decision early without too much thought. Not clear to me what business models are being precluded by our license.

On media models… Everybody tells jokes, but we still have professional comedians. Will see hybrid models, but I can’t predict them. People thought that IBM would die with the PC revolution, but they adapted and made most of their revenue from it. Some won’t adapt, some will get involved with community models (e.g. OhMyNews as a for profit community media model). Will be harder to control information as the means for leaking is expanding.

Someone wants to do an Emergency Medicine Handbook, there are tough problems with medical reference information that suggests a specific action. A much higher ethical responsibility. With an article about Thomas Jefferson, if we get it wrong, nobody dies. But this is the same issue as textbooks, there are many experts who would like to share if they had a platform. Physicians do things differently in different hospitals, implicit and localized knowledge, but could be shared with the right mechanism.

Someone challenges the Jefferson comment saying Jefferson had a black mistress and it was publicized a few years ago that the offspring sued the family. With a Tsunami happens, the water rushes out before it comes in. So people rush out to see it, but one little girl could say “wait a minute, I read somewhere that this could be a Tsunami,” and save the village. You never know where life-saving information could come from.

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Ross Mayfield is CEO and co-founder of Socialtext, an emerging provider of Enterprise Social Software that dramatically increases group productivity and develops a group memory.

He also writes Ross Mayfield’s Weblog which focuses on markets, technology and musings.

A Free Culture Manifesto Via the Internet
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