Following the release of Free Culture, an organization was founded by students at Swarthmore College that evolved into Students for Free Culture, an international organization dedicated to the promotion and awareness of these ideas. Local chapters can currently be found at Emerson, Northeastern, MIT, and Harvard, the latter having hosted the National Free Culture Conference earlier this year and generally serving as a lynchpin of the national free culture community. The Harvard chapter also has plans to open a “free culture space” in the not-too-distant future. In the space, panels and educational talks will be held and tools to create and distribute free culture-oriented art, such as music recorded under Creative Commons, will be centralized.
Such plans are still in their early stages, though, and for now SFC hosts collegiate events such as the one I mentioned earlier, geared towards informing the younger crowd of the cultural war they wage every time they sit down at their computer desks. A well-informed student populace, they hope, will help get word out on how strange and restrictive copyright law has become.
The goal of the free culture movement, as best as I can tell, is to show the United States government and court system that the fight for copyright reform is, in fact, a big deal, and that tradition isn’t the best ground for sweeping legal decisions. With the rise of projects such as Wikimedia and the seemingly imminent fall of old guards like the music industry, it seems like free culture’s vindication may be just around the corner. The battle remains one of enormous corporations with nigh-unlimited resources versus students and intellectuals, however, and thus the jury remains, literally and figuratively, out.
The argument in favor of free culture can be summed up thusly: “let’s reconsider some of our assumptions as a result of progress,” which seems so self-evident as to appear unworthy of discussion. Given that free culture’s ostensible opponents are tradition and some of the world’s largest financial interests, however, it’s no surprise that things have gotten so drawn out. Lawrence Lessig closes Free Culture with a simple demand: "Show me why your regulation of culture is needed. Show me how it does good. And until you can show me both, keep your lawyers away."
On the Web
Students for Free Culture: http://freeculture.org
Creative Commons: http://creativecommons.org/
The Free Software Foundation: http://fsf.org
Harvard Free Culture: http://www.hcs.harvard.edu/~freeculture/blog/
Lawrence Lessig: http://lessig.org/blog