We live in a world ever more connected and surveilled thanks to digital technologies: the Internet, the world wide web, personal computing, mobile computing, cloud computing, social media, and more. The ability to create, share, and communicate with the others is governed by the combination of both laws and technologies. The Free Culture Movement questions and challenges how technology and law affect who has access to, representation through, and protection within the exchange of cultural works. What dangers lie in private ownership over technology, media, and ideas as it concentrates control over those resources?
The mission of the Free Culture Foundation is to bring an end to the subjugation enabled by private ownership over media, ideas, and technology.
We work to bridge, disrupt, and destabilize the legal and technological digital divides between listener and musician, viewer and producer, reader and author, user and hacker. We strive to empower those exploited through these systems by supporting local and student chapters, providing educational resources, organizing direct action campaigns, and sponsoring select initiatives, projects, and events.
We work on targeted campaigns, public education, and policy advocacy in areas including:
- Promote the advancement free software, free formats, & free cultural works
- Raise critical consciousness around technology, media, and intellectual property
- Campaign and defend against significant technological and legal threats to privacy and autonomy
- Network within the free culture movement and build coalitions with other anti-oppression groups
- Organize the development of high-priority projects that support our mission
Depending upon its vantage point, the law can either empower or disable creativity, while also having a powerful impact on who actually receives access to and protection within the marketplace of cultural products. Further, as these examples might suggest, propertizing expression benefits some authors and artists, often within the mainstream, sometimes at the cost of chilling other types of artistic expression and commentary, often from “outsider” groups like women, people of color, and sexual minorities. Ignoring this result matters. If we construe a marketplace of copyrighted cultural products as akin to, or at least reflective of, the rich diversity of the marketplace of ideas itself, then the denial of the privileges of authorship to some suggests that we are missing an important and illuminating facet of the relationships between production, representation, and consumption within copyright law.
— Sonia Katyal, “Performance, Property, and the Slashing of Gender in Fan Fiction”
The range of Western beliefs that define intellectual and cultural property laws—that ideas can easily be separated from expressions, that expressions are the singular products of the individual minds of Romantic authors, and that these expressive works can be abstracted from the meaningful worlds in which they figure to circulate as the signs of unique personality, and that these expressive works can be abstracted from the meaningful worlds in which they figure to circulate as the signs of unique personality, that cultures have essences embodied in objects that represent unbroken traditions—are not universal values that express the full range of human possibility, but particular, interested fictions emergent from a history of colonialism that has disempowered most of the peoples on this planet.
— Rosemary Coombe, “The Properties of Culture and the Politics of Possessing Identity: Native Claims in the Cultural Appropriation Controversy.”