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last modified August 17, 2010 by strypey

Paper for FreeCulture2010

Tena koutou katoa

Ko Danyl Strype tooku ingoa,
No Aotearoa ahau,
Ko Aoraki te maunga,
Ko Ootakaro te awa,
Ko Clan Ross, Clan Bruce, La Famiglia Dini, te whanau o Efford, ooku iwi, ­
Ko te whanau uenuku te tangata.

E noho ana au i te Ika a Maui, kei te taha o te Whanganui-a-Tara.

My name is Danyl Strype. I come from the islands of Aotearoa in the waters of Te-Moana-Nui-A-Kiwa, renamed 'New Zealand' and 'Pacific Ocean' by the European colonisers who built the city of Christchurch where I was born and raised. I recognise the tangata whenua (first people of this land) - whanau and hapu of the iwi Kai Tahu - who knew this area as Ootautahi. I currently live in the capital city of Wellington, built on the harbour known to the tangata whenua as Te-Whanganui-a-Tara.

I am an environmental and social justice activist, with a specific focus on the area of media and communications. I am currently working on my own project, Disintermedia, which aims to support groups developing the infostructure of free culture, and defending people's right to privacy, to access knowledge and to participate in cultural exchange. ­

­I was one of the founders of Aotearoa.In­, which I worked on actively for 7 years. I continue to contribute writing and site development work to the Indymedia network. For the last four years, I have also been a voluntary consultant on the Aotearoa/ New Zealand localisation of the project. I am equally interested in sustainable design, renewable energy, organic agriculture, co-operative organisation all of which and more are seen as integrated element in the holistic design philosophy known as permaculture. I have recently become involved Permaculture in New Zealand, setting up a project on, to provide their regional and project groups with email lists, wikiwebs, and task lists.

He mihi mahana teenei
ki nga kaiwhakahaere o FreeCulture2010

Warm greetings to the organisers of FreeCulture 2020

Danyl Strype

Paper proposal for FreeCulture2010

Free to Know or Free to Own?

This paper began as an essay intended to explain the relevance of Free Software to environmental activists, and the relevance of the campaign against GE (genetic engineering) to Free Culture activists. The method was to identify similarities between proprietary software and proprietary forms of biotechnology such as GMOs (genetically modified organisms), and draw parallels between the social movements around what I call 'free code', ie FLOSS (Free/ Libre/ Open Source Software), and those around organic food and permaculture. An underlying goal of the work was to contrast the way multinational corporations seek to commodify and monetize structured information by treating copyrights and patents as interchangeable forms of "intellectual property", while communities of software developers and organic farmers treat knowledge as a common good, and seek to benefit from mutual sharing. This contrast is summed up in the title question, which illustrates how different definitions of 'freedom' lead to vastly different approached. Since publishing this essay online in 2005 I have continued to research and work in these areas, and have intended to update and extend this essay into a thoroughly referenced research paper. One area of extension would be to show how permaculture design philosophy extends into the digital realm, while the free culture philosophy similarly extends into the material production realm.

The paper discusses parallels between;
- the historical transitions from open sharing of code to business models based on proprietary software; and from saving and sharing of seeds to business models based on sterile hybrids and seed as product
- the determination of groups of programmers like the GNU project to return to the sharing of code as a social good; and the recent resurgence of interest in preserving 'heirloom' plant varieties
- the establishment of 'code banks' like Savannah and Sourceforge; and the emergence of organised seed banks
- the benefits of localization of free codebases for local users and developers, rather than replicating from scratch; and the benefits of localization of food species through regular, cross-locality growing, seed saving, and sharing for next seasons growing, rather than relying on imported seed
- the agile development approach to software design, with regular feedback from end users; and the slow and small solutions, and attention to feedback loops to achieve sustainable design, as promoted by permaculture;
- the free code movement, and the differences in philosophy and use of words between its many currents and connections (Free Software, Open Source, open standards, libre services etc); and similarly those of the organic agriculture movement (commercial organic, biodynamic, biointensive, permaculture etc)
- the existence of global, national and local organic organisations to promote the development, use, and reuse of free code, and defend against perceived threats like software patents (eg FSF); and the existence of differing scales of organisation to promote organic philosophy and defend organic practices against perceived threats like patents on genetically engineered crops (eg Ban Terminator);
- the use of licenses to protect free code against privatization by copyright, and differences between licensing approaches; and the use of standards to protect the organic label being hijacked by agribusiness, and the differences between standard bodies
- the philisophical debates with the free code movement about the relative importance of software being gratis (free of charge) vs. libre (respecting user freedom); and debates in the organics movement between food as a commodity vs. free, local food as a function of healthy ecosystems
- "intellectual property regimes like the DMCA/ ACTA which affect 'digital freedom'; and regimes like TRIPs, and the allowing of patents on engineered life which affect reproductive freedom
- Technological Protection Mechanisms which prevent copying of data; and Genetic Use Restriction Technologies which prevent sharing of seed
- the free culture belief in the benefits of 'free software, free culture, free people'; and the organic belief in the benefits of "healthy soil, healthy food, healthy people"

The paper concludes that multinational corporate advocates are seeking ever increasing powers to control information to keep some kinds of data secret to serve their own agendas and to charge royalties for the use of other kinds. They use misleading euphemisms like 'intellectual property' and 'digital rights management' and work through global institutions like the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) and the Trade Related aspects of Intellectual Property agreement (TRIPS) being pushed through the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The question we must ask ourselves and those in positions of influence is: which is more important - the freedom to speak or the freedom to own speech.