The Free Culture Forum is not the Gratis Culture Forum

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Michel Bauwens writes in the P2P blog about the talk “A Radical Critique of Free Culture” that Geert Lovink presented at re:publica 2010. Many of the participants in the Free Culture Forum that have seen Lovink’s talk are surprised, to say the least, about some of his comments on “the Free Culture movement”. Bauwens’ comments in the P2P blog are a good example of these opinions.

A critical approach to any social movement is necessary and positive for the health of the movement. However, the critique in this case is misleading in several ways, which doesn’t help at all to build a constructive debate.

In his reply to Bauwens’ post, Lovink claims that the real discussion should be “how artists are going to make a living”, and that this debate is being avoided by uncritically transplanting the FLOSS discourse to the domain of cultural production. Even a superficial reading of the Charter for innovation, creativity and access to knowledge proves that the economic models for a sustainable cultural production are one of the main concerns of the individuals and organisations that support the Charter. For example, at the end of the Introduction:

We declare our concern for the well-being of artists, researchers, authors or other creative producers. In this Charter we propose a number of possibilities for collectively rewarding creation. (…) Projects and initiatives based on free/libre culture principles use a variety of ways of achieving sustainability. Some of these forms are consolidated. Some are still experimental. It is neccessary to investigate and promote sustainable financial models capable of addressing the digital society reality and the new uses and values emerging from the culture.

Section 2.B of the Charter, entitled “Stimulating Creativity”, aims to provide a legal framework to guarantee free (again, as in “free speech” and not as in “free beer”) access to cultural works while creating tools to reward creators for their work. The interpretation of the Charter from the perspective of Free Knowledge contains some additional ideas on economic innovation and sustainability.

How is this “avoiding the real debate”? A good starting point for a constructive discussion would require a criticism on the text of the Charter and not on the alleged intentions of its supporters.