We are excited to announce the Free Culture Foundation — the new organization taking the place of Students for Free Culture. This change reflects the evolution of the organization over the first nine years of its life to support free culture advocacy in communities beyond students, to emphasize coalition building with existing free culture organizations, and to renew our commitment to free culture as an issue of social justice.
1. First, this change reflects an expansion of our activism to non-student communities.
Although our organization was started within colleges, universities, and high schools, we have grown to involve the work of many non-students. Many of our members and leaders have graduated and continue to participate in the organization. We want an organization that not only retains its members but has room for those who graduate and still wish to be organize around free culture. Many non-students have joined and support our advocacy and activism. To acknowledge the fluidity of student status as well as the valuable contributions of non-students to our organizations, we have selected a more inclusive name that reflects the breadth of our constituency.
That said, with dozens of student chapters that have been established around the world over the years, our roots and our base will remain in the academy. A new name and an increased commitment to non-students does not reflect a retreat from our strong commitment to students and to student activism in free culture. Although we plan to support local and non-academic chapters, our organization will continue a strong emphasis on campus organizing.
Just as we have outgrown our name, we have outgrown our old institutional structure. With the support of Joseph Dempsey, we are in the process of filing as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
2. Second, as the institutional landscape around free culture has evolved over the last nine years, we aim to reflect a changed position in an ecosystem of free culture organizations.
There are many organizations that carry out invaluable work benefiting the free culture movement: the Free Software Foundation, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Mozilla Foundation, Wikimedia Foundation, Open Knowledge Foundation, Public Knowledge, Creative Commons, and many other organizations have been founded, grown enormously, and changed, over the last decade. Today, the broader free culture movement does much more than our initial goals of promoting free software and free cultural works. The Free Culture Foundation seeks to fill a space between these organizations and bring them together.
A decade ago, the free culture movement focused on exploring possibilities and setting goals. After nine years of work in the broader free culture community, we can affirm a strong commitment to successful models of free culture put in practice by organizations like the Wikimedia Foundation, the Definition of Free Culture Works, the open access movement, and the Free Software Foundation. The free culture movement has also grown in breadth. Our work no longer involves only promoting increased use of free software and free cultural works. With our strong history of organizing, we aim to build upon, complement, and fill some of the spaces between the many other organizations to support a broad range of free culture issues.
3. Finally, we seek to reiterate a renewed commitment to free culture as issue of social justice and to connect more effectively with other activists and movements working on these issues.
As our announcement of support for the Empowermentors Collective reads, “It is imperative that we acknowledge that there are systemic structures of control embedded in our society which permeate our movement. Refusing to do so in an effort to compartmentalize and focus on our own goals is detrimental to our success. We cannot afford to be an isolated, inward-facing movement.” We do not live merely in coexistence with media and technology, but we live in and through them. They continuously influence how we communicate, frame our understandings of ourselves, and mediate how we experience the world.
In our continued advocacy, we want to emphasize that free culture reflects not only an approach to sharing but an important way to promote autonomy. Our movement should be grounded in the needs of those most exploited by private ownership over technology, information, and media. Songs, films, books, and apps do not need freedom, people do.
In these next steps, there remain many critical open questions and unfilled needs. We invite all free culture activists to participate in this ongoing evolution and expansion of our organization and our movement over the coming months. We encourage existing or former participants to reconnect. To join our community, please subscribe to our discussion list.