Geeks, hackers, netizens, lend me your eyeballs for a while. I have something to say about freedom, software, and how sausages are made, by which I mean The Law.
Otto von Bismarck never said, “laws are like sausages: you want to know as little as possible about how they are made,” but if he had, this blog would still stand firmly against the idea. We take here as a starting point the idea that laws matter. In particular, they matter to the future of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS).
FOSS is a technical / social movement that combines the “inquisitive passion for tinkering” of all hackers with “an ethical version of information freedom” and the belief that there are moral questions involved in writing, distributing, and using software.
So if laws matter to cool, ethical, open software, then what the government does matters. And if government matters to FOSS, it matters to the future of the Internet itself because “the history… of Free Software has been intricately mixed up with that of the Internet” as a whole. As for the Internet, it matters to international trade, to democratic governance, and to the future of awesome webcomics. That means that laws that affect FOSS matter to business, government, and people with a sense of humour, in short: everyone.
However, I don’t mean the foregoing as a proof (good thing, eh?), but more as a statement of intent. I’ll be trying to prove that laws matter, and explaining why, as I go along.
Over the next three months, from September until the beginning of December 2011, I (your humble blogger) will be doing research into politics and the web. I have a masters thesis to write before the end of the year. I aim to trace to the process by which FOSS advocates get mixed up in politics, and how they come out the other side. Do they have an effect on laws or policy? If so, how? If not, why not?
This blog will act as a repository for my ongoing thoughts related to my thesis. In my posts, I’ll be including links and references to many books, articles, and websites. The themes will include: the law, FOSS, philosophy, social science, technology and IP (intellectual property) policy, and the real world practice of politics.
So make sure you check back. We’re going to learn to make sausages in all sorts of flavours. It’ll be fun!
- Coleman, Gabriella. “Code is Speech: Legal Tinkering, Expertise, and Protest among Free and Open Source Software Developers”. Cultural Anthropology 24(3): 420—454.
- Kelty, Christopher. Two Bits: the cultural significance of Free Software. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2008. http://twobits.net/