Piracy has been deemed as one of the most criminal activities of recent times. But should it be? There are those who believe that our cultural products which include books, movies, songs and games should be available for free so that as many people as possible can benefit from it. The idea is to make as much information as possible, as widely available, for as cheap as possible. This increases the accessibility of content and puts our cultural works to greater use. Here are some of those who have championed the free culture.
Leo Tolstoy could barely contain his excitement over the activities of the Free Age Press, which made his writings available for cheap. This was one of the early attempts at low cost cultural dissemination. In 1990, Tolstoy wrote to the Free Age press in a letter, encouraging their efforts and promised to forward more of his writings to them so that they could be available to the public for free.
Lawrence Lessig’s ideas anticipate what we all want before we even know it. He has written seminal books on society’s relationship with technology. He was one of the people who supported Remix culture, where he proposed that appropriating and re using cultural works was desirable. He proposed the very concept of “Free Culture”, and is one of the biggest supporters of free and open source software, of open spectrum for easy access to telecom services, and of net neutrality to ensure that service providers don’t control the medium. He was fighting on the front lines for freedom of the internet in the 2015 Federal Communications Communication’s historic decision on Net Neutrality. He was featured in the movie Killswitch, along with Edward Snowden.
David A Wiley
David A Wiley founded the open content project, which was a precursor to the Creative Commons License. He has worked with creating informal networks that use the internet as a platform for learning. The basic aim is to improve the affordability of education. David A Wiley was the Chief Openness Officer of Flat World Knowledge, an organisation that aims to make study materials and textbooks available for free to students through digital distribution platforms.
Nina Paley is an artist who was one of the first to legitimise the distribution of original content over free platforms. Her animated feature length film, Sita Sings the Blues was made available for free in multiple formats and resolutions on the internet, which was a novel method of distributing a movie. She is also an activist at QuestionCopyright and also working on the Sita Distribution Project.
Richard Matthew Stallman is widely known by his initials RMS. He is dedicated to making software available without restrictive licenses to humanity. He is a free software activist and programmer. He launched the GNU project as well as the Free Software Foundation. He also drafted the GNU General Public Licenses, one of the common licenses used by open source software projects. The focus of the GNU project is to take control of hardware by crowd sourcing the development of the software. The Free Software Foundation aims to allow software to be shared, studied and modified freely.
Sean Parker just hacked together one of the most used platforms for peer to peer sharing of music, Napster. While he has now moved on to other activities including public health and philanthropy, Napster was responsible for allowing easy distribution of music, as well as driving the dialogue over intellectual property rights. Napster was a precursor to legal digital distribution services. However, Rhapsody is in the process of re-branding itself as Napster.
Siva Vaidhyanathan is a cultural historian and an influential professor in the University of Virginia. He has authored books that explore the issues surrounding intellectual property rights, and how the regulations are more likely to inhibit original thought rather than encourage it, which is what the laws were made for. His works include Copyrights and Copywrongs: The Rise of Intellectual Property and How It Threatens Creativity and The Anarchist in the Library: How the Clash Between Freedom and Control Is Hacking the Real World and Crashing the System.
Jorge Cortell is a free culture activist who believes that free dissemination is sustainable. He gives a number of speeches opposing the entire concept of intellectual property rights. He has lectured in more than sixty educational institutions around the world. He has worked with the American non-profit organisation Creative Commons that aims to make available an increasing amount of content that is legally available to consume, share and remix. He has also worked with the German Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure which has successfully campaigned for more relaxed patent regulations in the EU.
Jaime King is an intellectual property rights activist. He is the founder of the innovative online distribution platform VODO, which makes books, music, movies and games available with a payment model that allows downloaders to pay as much as they want. King is best known for directing the movie, Steal This Film. The movie was released for free over BitTorrent networks. The movie showcases various aspects of Swedish pirate culture, including The Pirate Bay founders and The Pirate Party.
Anakata / Gottfrid Svartholm
The Founder of The Pirate Bay known by the alias Anakata which he used for Pirate Bay communications. He is known for drafting hilarious replies to notices of copyright infringement. These included classic responses such as “As you may or may not be aware, Sweden is not a state in the United States of America. Sweden is a country in Northern Europe. Unless you figured it out by now, US law does not apply here.” He also liberally verbally abused top corporations for the stupidity of their lawyers. He had to go on the run from law enforcement authorities though, and was arrested in Cambodia. His very public trial reveals his views, and is chronicled in the movie, TPB AFK.