When I first encountered free software in 1999, I was amazed by it’s creative power. The power of collaboration coupled with the power of a truly free marked seemed the future to me.
Back then when Linux was a geek’s OS and rarely taken seriously except as web servers, and Wikipedia was nowhere, “proprietary” seemed to trump “free” in most any arena. The push for marked dominance by secrecy, copyrights and patents was mounting with companies like Microsoft and Oracle carrying the torch of Mammon. Gordon Gekko’s legendary words, “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works.” carried the American dream powered by egoism forward. But could something work even better? Free Software sparked a belief in me that collaboration, sharing and caring could indeed turn the tables.
My sentiment is well captured by Dan Pink in his TED talk. The endless possibilities of the Ant Hill Innovation captured my heart, my motivation. I decided to pitch in.
I got into the Free Software business in 2000. In 2004, my wife and I started FreeCode Norway (English link) and FreeCode International to help in the fight for freedom and the fight against vendor lock-ins. Being an idealist, I wanted to help make the dent in history by forwarding the ideals of freedom, creativity and human potential through collaboration.
For ten years I have been at the forefront of a battle for freedom. I went from a protector of “intellectual property” to a “copyright abolitionist“. I even rebelled against my own religion. The Church of Scientology had long since positioned itself as the main copyright terrorist on the Internet with it’s harassment tactics against anyone daring to challenge its monopoly on freedom.
I followed my heart, did countless of talks, speeches, seminars and media appearances in an effort to forward the ideology of a culture based on sharing. We helped African countries to see the light and set up FreeCode in Tanzania and Kenya, had meetings with governmental officials and got the media’s attention in Africa as well as in Russia, Ukraine and Norway.
The ideological war was fought in the area of software and it’s success gave birth to phenomenas like Wikipedia and Wikileaks. The marks of freedom was left on many parts of our society. Hell, even Microsoft started to embrace free software. Free software conquered the Internet infrastructure, started moving up the stack and is now practically everywhere.
The conflict loving media used to cherish the David against Goliath battle of Geeks against the Establishment. But as David won out, not by vanquishing the proprietary but by its ideology slowly being absorbed by the enemy, the media interest kept sliding.
To the point where I now feel that The War Is Over.
It’s kind of sad really, as I love to have something to truly fight for. Freedom, justice and the common good. I’m not motivated by the next buck. I am motivated by making a dent in history for the common good. Oh, well. Got to find another Hill to conquer.
While the war I engaged in a decade ago may be over, there is always another Hill, and FreeCode, me and the ideology of sharing and caring will morph into a new identity to make a jab at Mammon from another angle. Because there is no rest until… Well, forget “until” – as any goal toward a common good will do – as the pleasure lies not in attaining the goal but in the journey itself. One only needs to remember to enjoy the game. Immensely.
33 thoughts on “The war is over!”
Well here the next challenge for you after FreeCode. Let there be FreeClearing.
Let’s fight the monopoly on Clearing touted by the Church of Scientology and similar organizations. They pretend to heal the mankind but make their procudure so expensive that it out of reach of over 95% of mankind. Here is the first volley:
KHTK 1D: LOOKING: PRACTICE
The Scientology bridge, if at all practiced in India, shall be practiced KHTK style, free of any cost. You give without cost what Scientology charges so much money for. You give simple training totally free, which becomes so expensive and cumbersome in Scientology. Without money the suppression of the Church Scientology would have no support.
I am going to India to make this happen. OSA cannot stop this from happening.
That’s the spirit!
Not that I am in any way leaving FreeCode – it is a matter of reinventing the identity of the company – something we are well into doing with the new CEO of FreeCode Norway (Katrine) and the new CEO of FreeCode International (me).
Yes, to enjoy the game immensely. We too are working towards freeing ourselves from the monetary system. In addition, we are implementing clearing tools that more quickly enable the client to say, “thank you, I can do this myself now”. That should be worth a couple of angus burgers 🙂
Have negotiations about ACTA failed?
As I said, there is always something 🙂
I’m curious as to how you arrived at this conclusion: “the war is over”.
Microsoft and Apple have > 97% of the desktop market and 50% of the server market according to wikipedia…I know this is debatable but is probably accurate enough.
I don’t see Microsoft releasing any source code except to enhance their own locked-in product line.
I see the free software philosophy/methodology gaining more and more acceptance but the implementation of free software still lags way behind.
Because it is not a war anymore. The war is gone. This does not mean that the ideology has won out completely, or even tipped the scales. But, there is no war. That’s all.
Oh, I see…yes.
Free software will not destroy America or make us all Communists lol!
Please explain your response. I didn’t get it.
sorry…it was meant as a joke.
Ridiculous accusations and fear-mongering directed at free software advocates that I used to see occasionally on message boards and online articles; labeling them as communists and anti free-market. Basically corporations spreading FUD about free software.
Oh, And why the comment here on this blog?
Well, your blog entry is about the ideological war between the proprietary software vs free software, is it not? When the “war” was at its peak comments such as were made. That is how bad it was before; now that the free software model has gained wide acceptance and proven itself I don’t think anyone in his right mind would say such a thing. It’s so ridiculous that it’s laughable.
My attempt at humor failed miserably; that is all that happened here.
Feel free to delete the comment if you want; I don’t mind at all. If I upset you in any way, I apologize. It wasn’t my intention.
No problem. Humor (finally) understood (by a somewhat dim blog owner) 😉
I see you like the resource based economy before we knew it was called that. The VP has been going for a long time too. It is getting known via the web now.
Thanks Geir. I know you understand what it does and how this system damages society.
Why not tackle the duty of FreeClearing and FreeScientology ?
This is a war that’s going on, as still FreeScientologists are in the hiding or have fear of being attacked (and some are) if they are or go into the open.
This war would be over in the moment that Clearing and Training done by FreeScientologists is no more attacked by the C.O.S and all the materials are for free on the Internet.
(Responding to your including the film industry in the Ant Hill Innovation article)
There are some activities that this free software model doesn’t apply to.
Take film making. To create a film today, it takes a lot of money because it requires the skills of hundreds and even thousands of people. Film making is not the same thing as an individual banging out some code in his home office, even if the output of both of these activities is similar– a CD or a DVD, easily copied and distributed by anyone.
So if the film industry releases a film and within days, the revenue stream back to the producer is cut due to free downloads, etc: well, that film doesn’t pay back the cost to make it, and the incentive to make future movies disappears rapidly. This is happening now.
To glibly say to a film producer something like, “reinvent your business model” just doesn’t apply here. Look at the quantity of shit on youtube, compared to the few really cool items. That is the result of individuals trying to do it on their own.
Look at how many people are willing to pay to see films such as Avatar, or Harry Potter. They desperately want to see such films and do go see them. The “everything should be free” model would ensure films such as those never get made. Those films made BILLIONS because people wanted to see them, not because they were unfairly forced to pay.
I believe you are mistaken.
Because the same could be said about the pharmaceutical industry – only history has proven that countries that did not have intellectual property protection for that industry took a nose dive when such protection was introduced. Prime example: Italy in 1979.
And the same could be said about the creation of Operating Systems. Witness Microsoft spending BILLIONS in the creation of Windows. Only history has proven… you get the point.
Same with the fashion industry, science (oh yes BILLIONS upon BILLIONS), and I leave it to you to come up with yeat another dozen of industries that perhaps SHOULD not thrive in the absence of protection but yet they do.
Have a look at this TED Talk.
Further examples are given in abundance in the book “Against Intellectual Monopoly”
And, with the mix-and-match of technology, I can easily envision films created by the Ant Hill concept that could put even blockbusters to shame 🙂
Okay, I watched the TED talk. Interesting ideas that I don’t necessarily disagree with. (The bar graphs were faulty logic, in that she is putting forth the premise that the protected industries at the right of the graph, including music and film, have lower revenue in billions due to being protected. This is incomplete comparison and fallacy of the single cause.)
But some things need to be differentiated here:
Copyrights can be used by the creator of a product to protect his idea and creations from being appropriated by others who are creating similar products. The TED talk about fashion is a good example of this. Similar to fashion, filmmakers borrow ideas from each other all the time, but the movie-going public usually knows which film was first with some visual innovation. (Think of how many films used “bullet time” effects after the first Matrix film came out.)
Copyrights can also be used to protect a product from being stolen. This is what I am talking about. Due to the ease with which films can be copied and distributed, pirated copies of films are all over the place, with the revenue from such going only to those that illegally copied and sold the movies and none going to the film makers. This is just theft. It is at the level of the consumer, not at the level of peer to peer creative rivalry. To use the fashion analogy, it is like the fashion designer, or even those that do the knock offs of the designer making their clothing, and having the customers walk into the store, take the clothing and walk out. THAT is rip off. There needs to remain protection against this.
While it may be true that the Ant Hill may come up with good films in the future, the very desirable blockbuster film (desirable, as defined by lots of people going to see them) is in danger. The consumer can’t have it both ways. He wants to go to the movies or rent DVDs or stream the latest films with his favorite stars. These cost a lot of money to produce. But too many consumers downloading for free means he’ll end up only having Ant Hill created mix and match fare to watch.
The differentiation not being made here is the protection of ideas against competitors vs the protection of theft of product by consumers.
There is simply too much wrong with the idea of protecting ideas for the space available here. I urge you to read the book I linked to. I used to be a protector of intellectual property, but after 4 years research reading lots of papers and books on this area I realized I was working off of fixed ideas and thus changed my mind. I also realized that the people arguing to protect the so called intellectual property are all too often showing a lack of historical perspective, like the history of publication in Germany as one interesting example.
OK, but pirated copies of movies are not copies of “intellectual property”. They are copies of a tangible “real” property which is devalued by the production and sale of the unauthorized copies.
And that is how it should be, because the alternative is that someone will have to police what every person does with any and all copies they have of something that someone considers “theirs”. It leads to an invasion of privacy to the extreme. Witness ACTA etc.
“Owning ideas” is a slippery slope, leading to 1984.
OK, but a movie in the can is not an “idea”, is my point. It started out as an idea, but wouldhave remained just an idea if someone hadn’t put their time and effort into fashioning MEST into the final product.
I’m not saying your viewpoint is wrong, but I find it hard to see what the incentive would be, and where the money would come from, for R&D to develop and manufacture, say, a hybrid powered automobile like the Toyata Prius, if anyone could come along and make exact copies without investing anything in the development of the systems. The designers, engineers, techs etc of the original developer have to be paid their salaries.
How would an economy based on your model work?
At some point, isn’t the principle of fair exchange likely to be violated?
Your questions are answered in books like Against Intellectual Monopoly. Read it, then we talk.
PS – It’s not what someone “considers” theirs, I’m speaking of the ones who actually fashion the VFP. That IS “theirs” to some degree. They are not “considering” it is theirs it actually IS theirs.
Let’s say you built your house. Then Lenin comes along and says “I consider that house belongs to the people, get out or let 4 other families move in with you!”
I would consider that to be “theft”. The house is not just an “idea”. Neither is the car, nor is the movie in the can. They are MEST. There is more involved in this, than just “intellectual property rights”.
Ah, you stepped right into it there.
There is a difference between copying and theft: Theft is if I take something from you and you do not have it anymore. Copying is when you still have your copy. Big difference. “Possession” or “ownership” of ideas is a Bad Thing.
Thanks Geir, I will read the book you recommend.
The distinction I am trying to make is not that I have a copy and someone else makes a copy, but that I have the original, and someone else starts making copies. I suppose they would have to make copies of copies, if I have the original.
You do not mention Patents, which is what applies to my automotive example.
I’ll check out the book then if I have any questions I’ll come back.
Goodie, let’s talk after the book.
Geir, respectfully, I believe you have a new fixed idea on this, or are not differentiating properly. You said:
“There is a difference between copying and theft: Theft is if I take something from you and you do not have it anymore. Copying is when you still have your copy. Big difference. “Possession” or “ownership” of ideas is a Bad Thing.”
Your answer to “read that book” avoids addressing the point I’ve been making:
When a movie has been produced, it ceases to be just “an idea”. It is now a tangible product that has value to it. Similarly to movies, if I spend money to print a book, and someone comes along and takes a copy of that book without paying for it, that is THEFT, despite the fact that I still have more copies left to myself as well as the original manuscript.
PRODUCTS coming from ideas can and should be able to be protected, even if the original IDEA that inspired the product should be let loose. This includes products that are easily copied, such as DVDs of movies.
Of course – I cannot steal the copy. But I can copy it. Copy and theft are two different words and two different concepts. A quick look-up in a dictionary will revel the difference.
Okay. When one watches a movie, the product one is paying money for is the experience of watching the movie. When you buy a DVD, you may watch that movie as many times as you and your friends want.
When someone that did not produce the movie copies that DVD and then sells it to someone else, and that person then watches the movie, THAT IS THEFT.
It is very simple. Trying to talk around different definitions of copy or theft does not alter the fact of theft.
No, it is not theft, it is copying. And trying to collapse these two terms into one concept is intellectual dishonesty.
The act of stealing property.
To illegally, or without the owner’s permission, take possession of something by surreptitiously taking or carrying it away.
To produce an object identical to a given object.
The end product of policing what citizens do with an object that they have bought is invasion of privacy.
The invention of the propaganda term “intellectual property” is a vehicle for such an end product.
Now, did you read the book?
If not, return to this after you have read it.