The Free Culture Movement

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I’m a journalism and information science double major and the two overlap much more frequently than I originally expected they would. Recently at SILS, I was tasked with learning about and perhaps even modifying open source software. Open source software is software created by an individual but shared for free with everyone, to be edited, made better and re-shared. This free software movement is closely related to the free culture movement, the idea that creative work should be shared freely via the Internet or other media and that copyright laws restrict this sharing. I looked into the Internet’s affect on the free culture movement and found that there was already a debate surrounding the idea of freely shared creative work.

On one side, supporters of the free culture movement argue that culture builds upon itself and that in order to create culture, others must have access to existing culture. The Internet and media platforms give users the ability to easily access and share creative works. This spurs the innovation that creates new culture. In the opposing camp are those in favor of copyright laws. They assert that some restriction to free sharing must be in place to provide an economic incentive for creators to continue creating. Lack of return on creative works might deter artists, especially smaller ones, from investing time, energy and money into creating culture. In this case, the Internet and media are making consuming culture too cheap and easy.

I fall somewhere in the middle of the two camps as both sides have valid points about how to continue encouraging culture creation. That being said, I think that the free culture movement will win in the end. The Internet and social media are only increasing in pervasiveness, meaning finding, downloading or sharing any form of culture (i.e. music, movies, books, art, etc.) will be made easier. Our generation and those following us have grown up with the Internet and the ability to easily find most culture online for free. This means that regardless of the laws put in place to stop the free culture movement, the younger generation will work around them, ensuring that they can find the free cultural entertainment they want with the click of a button.

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