A policy paper is a document outlining the policy positions of an organization. FreeCulture.org develops its U.S. federal policy paper every 2 years, concurring with the U.S. federal election cycle.
FreeCulture.org first attempted to develop a policy paper in spring 2005 (see Spring 2005 Policy Paper). We are currently writing a policy paper for the 2006-2007 election cycle (the 2006-2007 Policy Paper).
The fundamental purposes of a FreeCulture.org policy paper is to officially establish our policy positions, and to inform others of our positions. Policy positions include the legislative and executive actions we want the government to take. Policy positions should be as inclusive and descriptive as possible.
The informative nature of a policy paper serves several audiences:
- legislators and other decision-makers, so they know what we want them to do
- Realistically, we have little ability to force legislators and others to do what we want. That is not the intent of the policy paper. But situations may arise where can influence the decision-making process: the policy paper outlines what we want to see happen. In addition, legislators sometimes favor a certain position but do not take it or speak out because they fear there is little public support for that position: our policy paper may encourage such legislators that there is, in fact, public support. Conversely, a policy paper may discourage a legislator from taking certain positions, by making an otherwise-uncontroversial issue appear contested. Finally, policy papers give us a "grading scale" by which we can analyze legislators and candidates.
- our chapters and volunteers, so we have unified policy positions
- see #Jurisdiction)
- our allies, the press, and others, so they know our positions on issues
- The free culture movement is a rapidly-blossoming one. But while there is broad agreement on values, and we can often agree on problems, we have far less consensus as a movement on solutions. Policy papers can advance the discussion and help build consensus on what we want, not just what we don't want.
Keeping with our values, policy papers are meant to encourage transparency -- not just on our part, but among all actors in our issues.
Policy papers are binding to all units lower in the organizational structure. For example, the U.S. federal policy paper establishes the policy positions of FreeCulture.org and its U.S. chapters. Chapters may not adopt policy positions contrary to current policy papers. However, chapters may adopt policy positions in addition to current policy papers, as long as they do not contradict.
Chapters are encouraged to adopt additional positions on policies of local interest (e.g. state laws). In addition, each chapter is encouraged to develop a university policy paper outlining the policies it wants its school to pursue.
Constructive criticism of adopted policy positions is encouraged. Adopted positions may be amended in the proceeding policy paper (e.g. the next election cycle).