Just this goy...

Monday, August 23, 2010

This blog entry is for Danny Pickle.

You signally failed to ask "Why the hell do you think anything related to humans you can sense is free culture?" I'm guessing you just decided to dismiss me and the whole conversation as a troll, unless you went to bed mid-discussion.

Like telling everyone to refuse to use proprietary software in developing free culture - as though this would suddenly make the proprietary hardware irrelevant. Oh, sorry, I shouldn't expect consistency even though you do.

The Suzuki recorder's shape is trademarked. Did you know that? Its exact ratios, decorative elements, are a corporate asset. And if I composed a jingle on it, slapped some free license acceptable to FSF on the tune and published it far and wide on the internet, the tune would be free culture. The tool has no influence on the product - I could use the instrument to write a melody for the piano, or even a Bede-esque poem composed of tone phrases.

It would be free culture, even though it undoubtedly would be influenced by Pachelbel's Canon in D, Queen's More of that Jazz (Youtube), and Joplin's Pleasant Moments. Its derivation from these intellectual properties - for that is what they are, whether or not currently protected by copyright law - has nothing to do with whether it is free culture. The idea that something is not free simply because of some artificial legal proscription is small-minded and just as artificial as the law cited.

As a digression, in the mid-90's in the USA it was illegal to "desecrate" any of the thousands of minute-man statues the US military dotted about the country's university campuses wherever they happened to have have a reserve officer training program. At the time there was a wave of protest on campuses against allowing the programs standing in accredited schools which had anti-discrimination policies - the US military clearly discriminates on the basis of gender and sexual orientation. Time after time activists requested permits to hold demonstrations in front of ROTC offices, and were turned down.

Rather than follow the rules, I and friends posted a notice in the paper of our celebration to be held in front of the ROTC offices. We then went down and enjoyed an afternoon of diversity, including dressing the statue up in a nice dress, while the ROTC students mustered at the side of the field. After the festivities died down, we cleaned everything up and went home, and sent out thank you notes to the CO and the University.

The cogent element of the event should be clear: we did not assume we needed permission to gather, to dress up (without causing permanent harm) the statue, or to carefully record our actions and then distribute the pictures/tapes - all of which the law clearly proscribed.

If you haven't gotten my point, I should probably be more blunt: there is no way any cultural item can avoid influencing its audience. Just as all video games are, in a sense, derivatives of pong, so every major software or artistic or hardware development has illegitimate offspring in the eyes of the law if literally and exactly enforced. But it would be impossible to prevent every infringement, especially if everyone just ignored an untenable legal position and just did it.

Trying to define what is free relative to an illegitimate legal standard is far more harmful than refusing to accept that illegitimate legal standard in the first place.

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