Electronic Pathfinder--Critical Perspectives on Intellectual Property & Copyright: Open Source, Free Software, & Post-Capitalist Perspectives
Audience: Information Ethicists, students, scholars, and all those interested in the philosophy of intellectual property and copyright.
OPEN SOURCE ETHICS & RESOURCES
Open Source Initiative
"Open Source Initiative (OSI) is a non-profit corporation dedicated to managing and promoting the Open Source Definition for the good of the community, specifically through the OSI Certified Open Source Software certification mark and program." The Open Source Initiative began as a group of software developers who saw that free software could be used for businesses in the world of commercial software development and wanted to maintain standards for what constituted open source software and what did not as well as promote the use of open source technology.
What Is Open Source?
Basic definition of Open Source software and the Open Source Initiative's licensing and certification.
Open Sources: Voices from the Open Source Revolution
An anthology of essays about open source technology and its implications for the software industry and society as a whole. Also available in print form.
FREE SOFTWARE MOVEMENT
The Free Software Foundation
"The Free Software Foundation (FSF), established in 1985, is dedicated to promoting computer users' rights to use, study, copy, modify, and redistribute computer programs." The free software movement is significantly different from the open source advocates in that they believe that all software should be free and try to offer an alternative to what they believe are monopolistic attitudes of software companies who create software that is solely their property, whereas the open source community is not opposed to proprietary software as such.
Richard Stallman launched this project in 1984 to develop a UNIX-like operating system that is free software: copyable, alterable, and non-copyrightable. The project's website has many essays and documents regarding the ethical foundations and philosophies of the free software movement about why they believe that free software is better for a free society than proprietary software, which they view as restrictive and monopolistic.
The Free Software Definition
Why "Free Software" Is Better Than "Open Source"
An important distinction made by the advocates of free software pointing out the differences between GNU/Linux-type free software and open source software.
Richard Stallman's original Manifesto for why he was creating the GNU Project.
Philosophy of the GNU Project
Why Software Should Be Free
Another essay by Richard Stallman
Why Software Should Not Have Owners
Richard Stallman's ethical polemic against proprietary software.
The general method used by free software creators to make their software copyable and ensure that all derivative works are free software as well (that no one tries to copyright anything made from free software)
A definition of Copyleft from Wikipedia, a large open source software based encyclopedia of sorts
POST-CAPITALIST POSSIBILITIES & PERSPECTIVES
"In Project Oekonux different people with different opinions and different methods study the economic and political forms of Free Software. An important question is, whether the principles of the development of Free Software may be the foundation of a new economy which may be the base for a new society." Project Oekonux is a German mailing-list created after an open source conference in Berlin in 1999 in which people discuss the potential for free software to radically transform the economy and all of society. There are some good texts on the English version of the site here, although the interface is a little clumsy.
Free Software and General Public License Society (Interview)http://subsol.c3.hu/subsol_2/contributors0/mertentext.html
Interview with Stefan Merten of Oekonux
GNU/Linux - Milestone on the Way to GPL Society by Stefan Merten
Overview and Introduction to Oekonux's discussions and debates
Taking Instead of Buying: Towards an Economics of Free Software by Stefan Merten
Contribution to the "Sustainable Economics Yearbook" about the economic possibilities of Free Software
Anarchism Triumphant - Free Software and the Death of Copyright by Eben Moglen
Discusses the history of the free software movement and the possibilities for the "withering away of intellectual property" in the online peer-reviewed journal of the Internet, First Monday
Copyright vs. Copyleft: A Marxist Perspective by Johan Soderberg
A comprehensive essay on the possibilities of a new economy and new society engendered by technologies like GNU/Linux and open source software from a Marxist perspective also appearing in First Monday. This article provides a great synthesis of what Marx said about production relations (private property, wage labor) eventually becoming a hindrance to the development of productive forces with what many believe is the playing out of this very reality in the world of software and discusses how free software could function as a "germ" of the communist economic form within the shell of capitalism.
Hi-Tech Gift Economy
Richard Barbrook, who has been the coordinator of Hypermedia Research Centre at the University of Westminster in the UK, presents his thesis that free software creates a new kind of "gift" economy that exists beyond the confines of commodity exchange and sees this as a direct descendent of the most radical of the ideas of the 1960's New Left about creating an economy and society based on the gift principle.
Cons in the Panopticon: Anti-Globalization and Cyber-Piracy by Indhu Rajagopal with Nis Bojin
Discusses the digital divide as well as possibilities for information technologies beyond capitalism
A Hacker Manifesto by McKenzie Wark
A condensed and edited version of McKenzie Wark's Neo-Marxist look at the new Information Economy, the notion of the "hacker class", and the possibilities of another kind of economy existing beyond the limits of property. Although the language is somewhat dense and abstract, the manifesto is a magnificent example of an anti-capitalist view of how software is produced and the relationships between the workers and the value they produce and how they have the potential to radically transform productive relations with emerging technologies. McKenzie Wark teaches media and cultural studies at the New School University in New York City.
First Monday Interview with McKenzie Wark
OTHER RESOURCES OF INTEREST
"First Monday is one of the first openly accessible, peer reviewed journals on the Internet, solely devoted to the Internet." Many interesting articles dealing with alternative perspectives on copyright and intellectual property can be found here.
A Brief History of the Free Software Movement
Salon.com's coverage of the Linux and the free software and open source movement's history
The Ethics of Free Software
Bertrand Meyer's critique of the free software movement, first published in Software Development March 2000. Bertrand Meyer, Chair of Software Engineering at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, argues that software companies and developers have every right to copyright what they have worked hard to produce just as any other company that puts effort and money into the development of a project does and claims that Richard Stallman's idea that software should not be proprietary even though everything else an enterprise produces is proprietary is unrealistic and even absurd. This essay should provide a jumping-off point for a response to these "alternative" perspectives in the debate.
DiBona, Chris et. al., eds. Open Sources: Voices from the Open Source Revolution. Beijing:
O'Reilly, Inc., 1999.
Anthology of essays regarding open source software and the open source software movement and its implications for businesses and society as a whole (also available online)
Dyer-Witheford, Nick. Cyber-Marx: Cycles and Circuits of Struggle in High Technology Capitalism.
Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1999.
Very thorough application of Marx's theories to the technologies and economies of the Information Age, focusing on different viewpoints within Marxism and post-Marxism
Stallman, Richard. Free Software, Free Society: selected essays of Richard M. Stallman.
Boston, MA: Free Software Foundation, 2002.
Selected Essays by GNU Project founder, Richard Stallman, many of which are available on the GNU website.
Wark, McKenzie. A Hacker Manifesto. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004.
Unabridged version of McKenzie Wark's Hacker Manifesto.
Conclusion/Invitation: It is my hope that this Electronic Pathfinder provides some interesting and challenging material on critical perspectives of intellectual property and copyright within the field of Information Ethics. Anyone interested in Information Ethics is invited to joind the discussion and debate and encouraged to consider what have sometimes been under-represented perspectives and to think critically about the foundations of our ethical notions of property and patent. Thanks for reading.