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This is a continuation of my musing on a free-software-type ideology for fiction.

Read Part I

Read Part 2a

There are two approaches to the books aren’t software argument:

1) software gets special privileges (in this case: freedoms) because of it’s special position in society (read: indispensable,) and

2) fiction gets special privileges (in this case: controls) because of it’s special position in society (read: in the arts.)

Yesterday, I talked about the first approach in Part 2a: software, unlike fiction, needs to be free because it can be a powerful force for good or ill in modern society–it is better not to be at its mercy, but to exercise control that you can’t get with proprietary systems.

The other approach is the argument that it’s arts that get a special place in society.  Maybe it’s just because I talk to more writers than techies, but this version of the argument seems to be the more common one.  Writers and other creators often talk about their work as though it were above every other type of work in society.  We are special.  We deserve special rights because we are different.  We aren’t like the car manufacturers or the entrepreneurs or the office workers or other people that contribute to society.   We make ART.  And artists, being special, have to find special ways to survive.  And we don’t get a regular pay check with benefits, so we have to get creative when it comes to surviving.  Unfortunately, what should be the most creative sector in society has come up with a decidedly uncreative, and often unsuccessful, method of survival: control.

If only we could control every copy of our work in the entire world, even that which we do not make, then we could survive.

If only we could control every possible derivation of our work, even that which we do not create, then we could survive.

If only we could control every possible use of our work, even that which we are not competing with, then we could survive.

This thinking is pervasive, even among the non-creators in society.  Just look at what these controls have mistakenly and very unfortunately come to be known as: rights.  

These rights are necessary, so the story goes.  We can only survive off of what we can control, so the story goes.

Well I want to write a new story.

Most writers may think it’s all well and good for technologists–who are normal people, working at normal jobs doing normal things, so very unlike us– to have a cute side hobby where they share their work for free.  But writers are special, damnit, and we deserve our “rights!”  More rights, it would seem, than everyone else on the planet.

Writers’ “rights” supersede property rights.

Writers’ “rights” supersede privacy rights.

Writers’ “rights” supersede freedom of speech and expression (e.g. singing a song in a public place, sharing a poem with a friend) and now assembly (gathering online to share and promote ideas.)

I don’t really know how to counter this argument, except by saying, quite simply: no, we’re not better, we are not different.  Yes, we have to survive.  Just like the car manufacturers or the entrepreneurs or the office workers or other people that contribute to society.  Just like the technologists with their cute little hobbies where they give things away for free.  It doesn’t mean we have to miss out on free culture.

If the techies can be part of it, so can we.

2 Responses to “Free As In Freedom: Books are not Software (Part 2b)”

  1. stevenh512

    Some of our “cute little hobbies” are big business, IBM didn’t shift from being a hardware company to an opensource Linux consultancy because they thought it would be fun. :)

    For the most part I agree with what you’re saying though, I actually talk about similar things with my brother all the time (he also believes that a lot of the ideas behind opensource software can work for writers and other artists).

  2. Vitoria

    this was cool a handful years ago noeethnless it’s amusing how years switches the method by which you see varying creative concepts, thanks with regard to the post it’s great to read anything smart now and then instead of the conventional rubbish mascarading as blogs on the web


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