10 Points for Change

The Free Knowledge Institute was one of many active participants that gathered from all over the world in Barcelona for the Free Culture Forum. Its first edition was celebrated from October 30th till November 1st 2009. In this article we draw upon the main topics discussed during the Forum and the main output that what was collectively produced: a Charter for Innovation, Creativity and Access to Knowledge. A Free Knowledge version can be found at the Free Knowledge wiki. Find below the ten points for change, or prerequisites for a free knowledge society.

 

Challenges

Humanity is facing unprecedented challenges in terms of sustainability, on a planetary scale. Global economic, social and environmental issues are affecting each and every one of us in real terms. These issues are interrelated and inherently complex requiring attention at international and local levels and harmonising diverse perspectives across cultures and divides for innovative sustainable solutions.

Paradigm shift

At the same time, we are in the midst of a revolution in the way that society's collective knowledge and cultures advance and co-evolve. The Internet, on account of its foundation on open standards, enabling interoperability and higher level innovation, has become a platform for this process. Irrespective of location or persuasion, individuals are collaborating and participating in cultural production and decision making. Ideas and knowledge are flowing freely in ways and on scales never before possible. Such social production has already resulted in software for all to use and adapt, knowledge resources covering all subject areas, and rapid innovation in network environments and practices. Innovative forms of social, economic and political organisation are emerging. This revolution is comparable to that brought about by the printing press.

Today's institutions, industries, structures and conventions will not survive into the future unless they adapt to these realities. Those that embrace change and seize the new opportunities will thrive.

Free Culture

A free culture (as in “freedom”, not as “for free”) is free of restrictions on collaboration on knowledge and cultural production. Knowledge and cultural resources are used liberally, and customarily shared, adapted and co-produced. Such freedom encourages diversity, interaction across divides, and enables knowledge to flow freely in society, facilitating cultural development. New opportunities arise, accommodating multiple perspectives, cooperation and innovation towards global sustainability.

Ten points for change

The participants of the Forum have articulated a common vision for an inclusive, sustainable and innovative knowledge society. Although the complete version can be found online (see references below), the basic preconditions for such society to emerge are identified as follows:

1. internet: net neutrality, open and universal access

Internet access is essential for learning and freedom of expression, communication and participation in the knowledge society. An Internet connection that enables sending and receiving content, using services and running applications, connecting hardware and using software is crucial. It is free of any form of discrimination. Citizens have a right to correct, delete, or prevent the transfer of their personal information. Filtering of Internet content is a threat to fundamental rights. Net neutrality is guaranteed. Within the network there are no restrictions on content, equipment or on the modes of communication allowed - while not degrading other traffic.

2. standards: open standards

Open standards are a precondition for technical neutrality. They enable interoperability, stimulate innovation and competition, enable platform independent access to digital information, and facilitate availability of knowledge and learning now and in the future.

3. software: free software

Free software (also referred to as Open Source or Libre Software) enables transparency of information processing. Above all, use of free software is consistent with the free culture values that we wish to transfer to successive generations in the emerging free knowledge society.

4. spectrum: free spectrum

Citizens are entitled to access to a free, unlicensed band of the spectrum for digital communications, such as the analogue TV range and, in general, at least a 25% of any new range of the spectrum that is released in its current use.

5. knowledge: aim for free knowledge

  • Non-copyrightable Works: There should be no copyright on laws, government reports, political documents and speeches, regulatory compliance information, or databases.
  • Public domain works: The public domain, as we understand it, is the wealth of information that is free from the barriers to access or reuse usually associated with copyright protection, either because it is free from any copyright protection or because the right holders have decided to remove these barriers. Instead of ongoing privatisation and reduction of the Public Domain, it should be strengthened and expanded.
  • Freely Licensed works: Every legal system should facilitate and promote free and open licensing to the same extent as proprietary licensing. The results of developments funded with public money should always be published under a free license.
  • Orphaned works: There should be freedom to use a copyrighted work if the copyright owner cannot be located after a due diligence search.
  • Freely available works: There should be no restriction on the freedom to access, link to and index any work that is already freely online accessible to the public, even if it is not under a free or open license.
  • Proprietary works in general: Copyright term should not exceed the minimum Berne term. In the longer term, we support the reduction of existing copyright terms. Copyright terms that are too long do not benefit artists, authors, their audiences or readers, citizens, or society.

6. patents: avoid or make freely available

Refrain from applying for patents on the results of publicly funded research. Patents held by public institutions shall be irrevocably released under royalty-free terms and free of any other restrictions.

7. privacy: inviolability of privacy and personal data

Citizens have the right to access internet resources anonymously, know in advance how their personal information is to be used, decide at any time to move, modify or remove their user data from any online service, protect their privacy and encrypt their communications and to choose not to receive unsolicited messages.

8. transparency

Transparency is a basic requirement for decisionmaking in the public sector and indeed for any collective, community oriented activity. In order to avoid the breach of any fundamental rights (e.g. invasion of privacy, freedom of expression, etc.) there is a need for transparency in enforcement. This must include information on the authorities in charge of the law’s application and on the nature of the obligatory procedures. The government should ensure, through a transparent and public process, the existence of systems of evaluation of how the norms are applied.

9. economy: assure income for artists and contributors of the free knowledge society

  • There should be diverse sources of support for creative communities including commercial use, direct financial support by consumers and public investment. See overview of funding schemes: Economic models
  • In order to promote the fair remuneration of artists, the role of intermediaries should all be limited. The role of currently existing intermediaries should be reduced to critical functions such as collecting usage data and the just distribution of remunerations to authors.
  • Knowledge, education and innovation are democratised, and production is driven by autonomous initiative and solidarity. Communities self-organise and self-govern. Exchange occurs according to each person’s abilities and offerings to service mutual needs. Earnings are distributed fairly according to the work carried out.

10. anti-trust: avoid monopolies and reduce dominant market forces

Encourage free competition and diversity by implementing strong anti-trust legislation against monopolies and market dominance. We strive for a level playing field where many more cultural entrepreneurs than nowadays can earn a decent income. Instead of a small number of bestsellers, a much larger number and variety of wellsellers can thrive when market dominance is limited.

References

The Charter document is currently available in various versions and flavours. For several reasons we prefer the Free Knowledge version, which you can find here: Free Knowledge / Free Culture Charter. This document is based on the final documents produced by the Free Culture Forum working groups (e.g. Education and A2K group, while it has been put in context by Kim Tucker and the Free Knowledge team. See also Kim's Libre Knowledge version. Read here why we prefer to talk about free and freedom.

The participants of the Forum are listed on the FCF website as well as the list of endorsements. References to prior research and civil society declarations can be found here.

A Glossary of terms is provided at the end of the Charter document. Please understand that these documents are under continuous development; your participation is encouraged to comment, discuss and spread the message!

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