A citizen's response to the AUDMCA

We have heard from the publishers and software companies about the kinds of products they would like to sell. About how they feel they can maximise their profits in selling information and technology. We have even seen these preferences formalised and supported by law in our country.

I feel it is time for a response. I am a citizen, a consumer, a user of information and technology, and a member of a community which values the right to adapt and improve on information and technology resources. Here are the kinds of things which I value and am interested in buying and using as a citizen and participant in an information economy.

  • Explicit branding on all information and technology products which makes it possible for me to see which products are restricted, which have conditions on use and which are free to access, use, modify, distribute and will inherit those freedoms.
  • Education in schools about ways to share information freely, how to collaborate and which kinds of licenses facilitate this kind of collaboration.
  • Schools able to share information freely, to learn from the works at other schools and to adapt them, contribute to them, comment and respond, perhaps to distribute information projects as fundraisers, with no fear of prosecution.
  • A program where teachers, staff, students providing computing support in schools are able to attend workshops which give them practical hands on experience with open source technologies and which also have a touring team which helps deploy technologies in partnership with the school's team. This way there are avenues for skill development and the school is able to understand their facilities locally and to have specialist support if required. Use of this model means that the technologies in schools are safe for students to investigate and learn from without fear of prosecution.
  • I want to know that my government, doctors, hospitals and other agencies which collect and use publicly funded or personal information, are ensuring that the information collected on my behalf is free of proprietory restrictions which would prejudice my rightful access and use of the information, and which would reduce the value of publicly funded projects for future generations.
  • Assurances from the legal and policy agencies in all spheres of Australian governance that Australians have a right to innovate, tinker, adapt, modify, customise, develop third party products, participate in information technology development without prejudice and fear of ambit claims using the DMCA as a barrier to entry in information and technology markets.
  • Fines should apply for making DMCA claims and posting take down notices which are not justified, the funds of which should be held in trust as a fighting fund for Australia's small innovators and citizens who need to contest such cases but who are not able to finance a defence. The penalties need to be appropriate to the cost to Australian society of the chilling effect and reduction of research and development which results from a threatening legal environment.
  • There needs to be compensation for people who are wrongfully accused of infringing copyright.

The following table is an example of how rights can be mapped for use in a branding campaign. The model matches the same structure as the Unix RWX read write execute model. This is because it makes a compact raw data model. This can then be expressed as logos, labels, or in metadata with supporting information which is explicit about the kind of restrictions and conditions which apply to the licence on the product. This model is one which assumes copyright and DRM are a feature of our information and technology environment. I will be adding infomration here about the mapping of specific licenses to this matrix.

0 None 1 Restricted 2 Conditional 4 Free
Access no access restricted access conditional access free access
Use no use restricted use conditional use free use
Modification no modification restricted modification conditional modification free modification
Distribution no distribution restricted distribution conditional distribution free distribution
Inherited no inherited state inherited restriction inherited condition inherited freedom

 

Beyond the matrix

I am also working on developing matrices which include other models because there are communities internationally who, like me are responding to the suppliers' requests for DRM, with requirements from other perspectives. The Access 2 Knowledge Treaty and the Adelphi Charter are two models which are built on an understanding of the way in which information and technology function as the lifeblood of our communities and economies and are expressions of concern that fencing the space into realestate has destructive results for the wider community.

In addition to the modifications of a copyright IP based model that the above groups represent there are also people aiming to shift the model away from a property basis altogether and to develop business models and markets which operate without compromising freedom.

A model which protects the freedom to participate does not need a matrix because there is no reduction of freedom required in order to operate and no need to prosecute people for adapting and sharing information. Given the barrier to participation which the current model represents it will be the groups and nations which are able to find these solutions which will be best positioned to innovate and develop fully in the future.

Free open source software is developed using this principle. Free culture is also freedom based and has produced projects like wikipedia, campaign wiki, SELF, Share alike Creative Commons works. Feel free to poke me with more examples and I will add to this.

Those nations which recognise the costs of restriction based models are adopting alternative technologies and models for information and technology. Those nations which do not will not be viable or safe places to innovate in the future. I would like Australia to be the kind of place where our ingenuity is valued and where our government and laws reflect an appreciation of the value of freedom and collaboration and the ability to participate fully in the information and technology which is a part of our cultural fabric.

As a first step on this path I am offering the matrix as a way for our nation to recognise the risks and values inherent in the licences and laws which we have applied, and to use that knowledge as a means to understand the value and necessity of investigating further models which better provide for our cultural and economic development.

See also some information on Free Software projects in South Australia