Gabriella Coleman on the ethics of free software

January 8, 2013 · 3 comments

Gabriella Coleman

Gabriella Coleman, the Wolfe Chair in Scientific and Technological Literacy in the Art History and Communication Studies Department at McGill University, discusses her new book, “Coding Freedom: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Hacking,” which has been released under a Creative Commons license.

Coleman, whose background is in anthropology, shares the results of her cultural survey of free and open source software (F/OSS) developers, the majority of whom, she found, shared similar backgrounds and world views. Among these similarities were an early introduction to technology and a passion for civil liberties, specifically free speech.

Coleman explains the ethics behind hackers’ devotion to F/OSS, the social codes that guide its production, and the political struggles through which hackers question the scope and direction of copyright and patent law. She also discusses the tension between the overtly political free software movement and the “politically agnostic” open source movement, as well as what the future of the hacker movement may look like.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/nskinsella Stephan Kinsella

    I don’t think Stallman is completely against copyright, but I could be wrong. E.g. he is not as much for free culture as he is for free software, as Nina Paley notes here http://blog.ninapaley.com/2011/07/04/rantifesto/ — without copyright there would be free culture, of course.

  • Bob_Robert

    I would correct one thing about “Open Source” vs. “Free Software”.

    It’s all “Free Software”. There is “Free” and there is “Proprietary”, those are the opposites.

    “Open Source” is a marketing term, to overcome the vague nature of the word “Free” when talking to non-technical people: Does it mean it costs no money? Does it mean that it is free of legal encumbrance? Does it mean that it will fly away?

    There are people who are sticklers and will use the words “Free Software” and then spend 10 minutes explaining what they really mean over and over, ever time the subject comes up. Other people will say “Open Source” and then move on.

    So long as Stallman’s Four Freedoms are respected, it is Free Software.

  • Bob_Robert

    Mr. Kinsella, it is my impression that Mr. Stallman would not agree with the Rothbardian conclusions concerning the Copyright and Patent statues (or pretty much anything else for that matter).

    What Richard Stallman has done is focus on one subject, Free Software, and take a principled stand that is wonderfully refreshing in a world of wishy-washy Keynesian-esque pragmatism. But to quote him about anything else is “beside the point”.