Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Four Freedoms

The Four Freedoms

I have been taking part in a long discussion on identi.ca lately on whether the Four Freedoms that are thought to be essential Freedom are needed for Culture as well.

There has been a lot of back and forth and a lot of thoughts put forward on both sides but I just want to document this in more detail here. Sometimes 140 characters just makes things too difficult.

A lot of the following is likely still rough and could use more refining and still in the beginning stages and could use further development.

The Four Freedoms (0-3) of Free Software.

The Four Freedoms of Free Culture.

One line of thinking is that there has been a logical argument put forward on the necessity of the four freedoms for software and that there has been no logical argument put forward on the necessity of these freedoms when it comes to culture and that therefore denying one, some, or all of these freedoms with respect to culture is "OK". (Or at least not proved wrong/unethical/unwarranted.)

I am putting forward that this is approaching the issue from the wrong end. Consider this:

Freedom is the Proper Default.

Freedom does not need to be justified. Freedom does not need to be proved to be necessary. Freedom should be assumed. Freedom is the proper default.

Those who would seek to limit freedom are the ones who should have to prove that those limits that they want to place on another person's freedom are essential. That those limits are unavoidable.

Furthermore if we are trying to solve a problem we should solve it in a way that least impacts another person's freedom.

Let's say you live in a supposedly free society and one day the government sends someone over to your house and tells you that you have to be inside your house by 10 pm every night. Should the onus be on you to prove that you need to be out after 10 pm? Or should the government bear the burden of proving a valid reason that you need to be in by 10 pm?

Now let's say that rather than you in particular having to be in by ten, they say all people over 6 feet tall have to be in by 10. Do people six foot plus now have some moral or ethical obligation to prove that they need to be out after ten?

I put it to you that it is those who would restrict another person's freedom that has the obligation to offer proof. Freedom is the proper default and should be assumed.

So, let's take the example of someone publishing an opinion piece and having the worry (or even the knowledge based on past experience) that they will be misconstrued to their detriment. Let's say they take the position that they will use the power that copyright law gives them to allow only verbatim distribution of their piece. (If you are familiar with the Creative Commons suite of licenses, think a BY-ND license.)

Let's for the moment assume that this approach will be perfectly effective.

Is this restriction on another person warranted? Is there another way to get the same effective result? Is it really necessary to prevent another person who agrees mostly with your piece from starting with your piece, making the changes necessary to reflect where the two of you see things differently and releasing the derivative piece as their opinion on the matter. (referencing your opinion accurately in the process)

Now let's consider a translation. Do we need an ND on that to prevent a translation that accurately represents your thoughts? Would not an officially approved translation serve the purpose in contrast to unapproved translations? Are we not sophisticated enough to know that mistakes can be made in translation? even if we are unsophisticated in this area, the ethical imposition on the restriction needs to be proved. There is a workable alternative and if everyone took that alternative, its effectiveness would grow soon enough.

Let me try and put it another way.

Those that think that the ethical case has been satisfactorily make in the realm of software already believe that copyright law results in the allowance and widespread practice of unethical behavior and that proper licensing is needed to combat this unethical situation so long as copyright law remains in its present form.

Given that, if someone wants to place restrictions on another person's freedom an an area other than software, the burden of proof is on them to show that the desired restrictions are in fact ethical ones. It is not enough that it is legal for them to place those restrictions on another. The law will allow them to place those restrictions on another in the software realm as well.

Freedom and Freedoms

Although I titled this post The Four Freedoms, it goes deeper than that and perhaps I made a mistake in giving this post that title.

Basically, we do not need to think of "the freedom to do this" and "the freedom to do that" as that will lead to us not being Free. No, we should think that we should be free to do whatever it is that we may want to do. After that, we nee to think about what necessary and ethical restrictions should be placed on our freedom to do whatever it is we want to do.

Freedom is the Proper Default.

So, here we are with copyright law and how it applies to software and culture and the restrictions is puts on people who would otherwise be free to do as they chose.

So, in this area, when we speak of essential freedoms, I put forward that what is essential is to list the freedoms what will negate the restrictions that copyright law puts on people. And in the case of copleft licenses, to do it in such a way that the works we so license cannot then be used in ways to deny those same freedoms to others, now or in the future.

(This is why I consider it a bug still in need of a solution that works under various copyleft licenses cannot be intermixed.)

However, these freedoms put forward do not need to be justified. It is the restrictions that copyright law places on free people living in a free society that nee to be justified. The proper critique for any such list of freedoms is whether it fully reverses the restrictions copyright law places on people. *Then and only then* if any restrictions placed on a free people by copyright are proven to be justified, such restrictions can be factored into the given list of freedoms.

Can my freedom to do X be ethically restricted?

A simple/childish test.

Should I be allowed to do X to someone?

Simple test:

Should someone be allowed to do X to me?


Should I be allowed to kill Jim?

Simple test:

Should Jim be allow to kill me?

My answer:

No, Jim should not be allowed to kill me. Therefore, I should not be allowed to kill Jim.

Should I be allowed to make a derivative of Jim's song?

Simple test:

Should Jim be allowed to make a derivative of my song?

My answer:

Yes, Jim should be allowed to make a derivative of my song. Therefore, I should be allowed to make a derivative of Jim's song.

Let's do it again from the other direction.

Should Jim be allowed to restrict my freedom to kill him? (Should Jim be allowed to stop me from killing him?)

Simple test:

Should I be allowed to restrict Jim's freedom to kill me? (Should I be allowed to stop Jim from killing me?)

You can state the second example from the reverse perspective.

No comments: