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Freedom Zero

I don’t have a lot of love for free speech extremists who want to give everyone and everything a platform. When I see a social media platform espousing “resistant to censorship” I slowly back towards the door. I don’t urgently feel like participating there any more than I’d want a kitchen or living room with a Hyde Park soap box for strangers.

It’s fine to build a community for just your friends or for just people who share some of your basic values.

Lately, though, I’ve seen a lot of talk of making licenses for software or works that exclude the so-called “Freedom Zero”. For example, restricting commercial use.

I’m not onboard with that.

To me, it’s like making a saw and saying “only to be used by left-handed abstract artists” or making a spoon and saying “only to be used for 100% vegan granola”. It feels ridiculous.

Now, OK. All the historians in the audience are like

Whaddayamean, “ridiculous”? Ancom have used goods labeling as a form of action for a century. To let the good peeps know what’s the good stuff, what’s been made democratically, by workers who owned their own means of production.

Fine, maybe I’m just behind the times, out of the loop, need to get with the vibe… But it just feels ridiculous. Feels over reals, as I am wont. Labeling is information, not a legal contract.

The problem…

As usual, the left wing is the one group that clearly sees that there’s something wrong with the status quo.

We went from a “downhill battle” where the next year was gonna be the year of the desktop and Microsoft was unable to keep up, to this hellscape of webapps and smartphones where the big corps pick the fruit from the FOSS trees and stick them in their proprietary pastries.

This is obv not good.

…and the, uh, “solution”?

What made the original GPL so brilliant is that it played within the framework of copyright to subvert it.

With these proposed non-F0 licenses, though, it’s like the battle is being fought against our own foot by shooting it. We are creating incompabilities and hassles and hurdles for ourselves along with our purported windmill.

The reason F0 is so basic is that it’s something normal copyright can’t restrict. It’s the one freedom we always had. Say it’s 1970 and I buy a printed copy of War and Peace. I can still use that to prop up my kitchen table and Tolstoy can’t invoke copyright to stop that.

Only in the world of EULAs would he be able to do that. The absurd world of end-user license agreements where you don’t buy a book, it’s more like the zoo where you pay and you get to look at it a little, under supervision. (Comixology and streaming services are prime examples.) The world where instead of just and fair legislation, each object is entangled with its own long shadow of dotted-lines and by-flipping-a-page-you-agree-to.

I haven’t yet internalized that sick world. I still live in “kitchen table prop up book” world.

This is where I am politically now. Perfect example. The right wingers and the centrists don’t even see how messed up the world is, and the left wing does see it but propose a solution that’s even worse: that we should start EULAfying each other.