Ten Things That Will Be Free


I will be blogging for Larry Lessig for the next couple of weeks, most of which I will be at the Wikimania conference in Frankfurt, Germany. Wikimania is the first major conference of the Wikimedia Community, and my keynote opening talk on Friday will be entitled “Ten Things That Will Be Free”.

The list is inspired by Hilbert’s problems. In 1900, at a conference in Paris, German mathematician David Hilbert presented 10 problems, from a list which ended up being 23. These problems influenced mathematics strongly in the coming years, serving as a focal point for the research and work of thousands of mathematicians.

I hope that my list will serve as a similar inspiration for the free culture movement. Many of the 10 are already well under way but need definition and focus, a coming together of a single coherent community. Others are in the earliest stages.

I started to name the list “Ten Things That Must Be Free” – but this sounded to me too much like an empty political demand. And the point is: this is not a dream list of things which I hope through some magic to become free, but a list of things which I believe are solvable in reality, things that will be free. Anyone whose business model for the next 100 years depends on these things remaining proprietary better watch out: free culture is coming to get you.

I will be presenting the ten things over the next ten days, but I will let you in on a little secret. I haven’t finished the list. In true collaborative style, I want to invite you to participate in the finalization and formation of the list.

The ground rules are: I am talking about free in the sense of GNU, that is: free as in speech, not free as in beer. I was talking to someone about this concept recently who suggested “health care”. That’s not the sort of thing I’m talking about. Think: GNU/Linux. Think: Wikipedia.

For each of the ten, I will try to give some basic (and hopefully not too ambiguous) definitions for what it will mean for each of them to be “solved”, and we can all check back for the next 25 or 50 years to see how we are doing.

What are the ten things that will be free?

The first seven things I have chosen, and I will post one per day for the next seven days. The final three are up to you. You tell me…

What should be free?

What will be free?

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73 Responses to Ten Things That Will Be Free

  1. Josef Schneider says:

    All “public” information will be free. democracy depends on the consent of the governed. One cannot consent to something that one doesn’t know about. Elections are a farce if the public doesn’t know all of the things that the incumbent office-holder has been doing with their public office.

    But more and more government information is being placed in the “classified category”. The “black budget” of the Pentagon has been for decades, but now even the results of scientific research that has been funded by the public is being withheld from the people.

    For democracy to be meaningful all information concerning the state and its actions must be free. Will be free.

  2. James Day says:

    Welcome Jimmy “Jimbo” Wales. 🙂

  3. Steve Stroh says:

    Basic Broadband Wireless Internet connectivity – Wi-Fi and sucessor technologies, will be free and generally ubiquitous, at speeds of, say, 1 Mbps. Many/most will upgrade to higher speeds and better grades of service which will pay for the free basic service. Internet access will shortly be a defacto requirement in order to be an informed citizen, and increasingly, Internet access will be required to access some of the best educational opportunities available regardless of income, location, or time… essentially open source college lectures.

  4. nutellachino says:

    In the future, customization will be free. It will be oligatory for all new gadets and sources to emphasis interactivity and to oblige its users. The freedom to edit, modify, expand, and improve the information environment around us will shape our own perception of the world. Interactivity will become a fundamental attribute to almost all media source, including TV, online news outlets, blogs, and personal music. We will become the crafters of our own environment, and in the future, we will see this expansion continue.

    Interactivity, inspired by sites such as Wikipedia, will allow users to forge their own information, to exchange and improve the work of the peers so that our collaboration strengthens us. Editing and customization will be free.

  5. Jeremy says:

    I’ll be a little less ambitious – how about mass-market ready operating systems? We have open office which is as functional as MSoffice, it can’t be too long before a Linix derivative matches the mass-market functionality of Windows…

  6. danithew says:

    An Ivy League education or education by the very best teachers …

    I believe there is already a project to put MIT classes online or something of that nature.

  7. Esther Hoorn says:

    You show an enticing tensing between future fact and normative desiderandum. This is an approach that should appeal to people who work in the legal domain. My students are using wikipedia to describe technical features. For law students I share the view expressed by Yochai Benkler en Helen Nissenbaum that collaborative peer-production can have a virtues effect. So my hope would be that tasks that have always been performed by legal scholars will performed in an Open Access environment. Comments on legal decisions and legislature should be in the public domain. And we should collaborate to make this a reality. That will be fun too.

  8. I’m hoping for beers and ice cream :p

    Sorry, couldn’t help it – I’m looking forward to the list.

  9. Joseph Pietro Riolo says:

    Exactly how do you define “free”?

    The examples that you listed (GNU, GNU/Linux,
    and Wikipedia) are not free as free in speech.
    Unlike the freedom of speech that is not restricted
    by any rights or legal instruments such as license,
    GNU, Linux, and Wikipedia are still owned by
    the authors of the works and still retain
    copyrights and are still encumbered by the
    obligations and restrictions as outlined in
    licenses. Those who claim that these are
    free confuse freedom with openness.

    Again, exactly how do you define “free”?

    Joseph Pietro Riolo
    <[email protected]>

    Public domain notice: I put all of my expressions in this
    comment in the public domain.

  10. Jimbo Wales says:

    I define free in the standard way in this context. ‘Free’ means that people have the right to copy, to modify, to redistribute, and to redistribute modified versions, commercially or noncommercially.

    Those who wish to quibble beyond that can feel free to do so, but I’m not very interested in it.

  11. Newspapers will be free, and thrive, as much smaller indexes to everything you’ll find on the news orgs’ Web sites. (Connectivity will be free, as well, to deliver the buyers to the advertisers’ shopping carts.) There’ll be competition among advertisers for a big strip ad at the bottom of the page which will always include a coupon.

  12. three blind mice says:

    it might also be interesting to consider that which is free today that might not be free tomorrow.

    air, for example, is both free as in free of cost and free as in free to copy, to modify (as through combustion and reaction), to redistribute, and to redistribute modified versions commercially or noncommercially.

    water used to be free, but rising pollution levels and limited resources of fresh, pure water mean that most people today have to pay for their water.

    we hope air will continue to be free and that water will be made free.

    free love – free to copy, to modify, to redistribute, and to redistribute modified versions, commercially or noncommercially – will be a very good thing. we hope there will be free love.

    the same with naturally occuring plants – especially those that are not free today.

    on the other hand, we hope religion which is free today will be made non-free (or at least obselete.)

  13. thereader says:

    Writing systems should be free. Literacy-enabling technology should be free and reusable freely in the “libre” sense.

    Think of the many language still hampered by the lack of free implementation of their script.

    Free the letters, free the alphabet!

  14. Jon says:

    In response to comment #3:

    I used to think that the true measure of our maturity as a society would be the advent of free Internet. I felt that it would become a public utility and therefore each citizen would have the right to access it.

    Then I realized that was just wishful thinking on my part. Arguably, Internet is a public utility in large urban areas, but it still has to be paid for. We pay for water (as another commenter notes), gas, electricity, and everything else. I can’t see Internet sneaking under the wire in any large way.

    We’ve seen the (almost) utter failure of the free (as in supported by advertising) dial-up Internet business model in Canada and I have no reason to believe that broadband wifi would fare any better.

    Having said that, I live in Calgary, Alberta, Canada and we have a small municipally/commercially supported program running where free wifi access is available to citizens. This access is only available in select areas of the downtown core and only for one hour a day. It’s a noble idea, but generally the reception is bad and the hour a day isn’t all that useful for serious research into the days events, but it’s a step in the right direction.

    The bad news is that it hasn’t grown or changed in the 2 years or so it’s been running. The people paying for it are going to get tired of paying for it sooner or later because there’s no reward. It’s an interesting experiment, but doomed to go the way of the free dial up model in my opinion.

    In any event, my point is that I don’t think there’s any real requirement for wifi to become free in order to move ahead as a society.

  15. David Orban says:

    Access to textbooks will be free.

    As a father of three, I have powerlessly looked on the despicable tactics publishers of school textbooks employ to make sure that the secondhand market of textbooks is squashed, and that parents have to spend the highest possible amount year after year. This pathetic exploitation has nothing to do with quality, or progress, and hinders the positive evolution of teaching methods, and dinamycally updatable content.

  16. Roop says:

    1. Information – references, papers, news, encyclopaedia can be quoted without copyright
    2. Desktop/CommonMan software – Software that enable the common man to get things done will become open (like Word, Excel, QuickNotes). Entertainment software (games) and vertical-market software will not sustain as open software.
    3. Music – you wouldn’t have to buy rights to remix a song

    I think these industries will actually benefit finacially in going free.

    What else? Let me think…

  17. Adam Lopresto says:

    The law will be free. That is, there will come a time when all the federal, state, and local laws, along with case law (court precedents) and supporting documents are available, online, searchable, by anyone. I foresee something like the wikipedia equivalent of LexisNexis. For a society to be considered free in any meaningful way, it is essential for the citizens to have complete access to the laws they must live under. There will always be a need for lawyers (the amount out there to know is just staggering), in the same way that we will always need plumbers, but that doesn’t mean I can’t poke around in the pipes myself if I want to.

  18. James Day says:


    Free here is defined in the Truespeak way: as meaning restricted by a license. Not free as in without license restrictions, like the public domain, the established meaning of freedom for published works, which lets you combine works as you see fit without worrying about things like license compatibility. That tends to lock up the reuse of a work behind a wall made by its license and what it makes hard or impossible.

    It’s a fundamental dishonesty which makes me somewhat displeased with the copyleft movement, even though it has some admirable aims. In this way it’s actually supporting the big media companies, who are seeking to redefine rights with word and other games. If we acept the copyleft definition of freedom, we’re effectively endorsing the elimination of the public domain.

  19. Don Marti says:

    Scientific papers will be free. Scientists succeed based on incoming citations, and freely available papers get cited more than others. There’s no money in publishing a paper anyway, as many for-profit journals impose “page charges” on authors.

    Public Library of Science is introducing an impressive set of new journals.

  20. Raristotle says:

    To add to the first comment, all aggregated private information will be free. Aggregated private information is all the information about you that the census–or any data compiler–accumulates minus your identity (ss#, name, etc.). For security reasons, people should have the right to make their own identity public or private, but, in all likelihood, “privacy” is merely an illusion–pretty much everyone’s address and phone numbers are available online.

  21. Bill Korner says:

    These comments show clearly that the “Free as in speech not as in beer” dichotomy is way too simplistic. Why? In spite of Jimbo’s injunction to the contrary, lots of these comments are about getting free as in “no-money-paid-for” access to culture.

    Of course, these cultural artifacts are not like beer in that they do not get used up. And that’s exactly why the “not free beer” rhetoric is so misleading! Beer is perhaps the paradigmatic example of something that is consumed. And I at least sort of understand the free culture movement’s resistence to looking at culture that way. But “paid for” does not equal “consumed” much less “consumed in an wanton, glutinous, or inappreciative manner”. I appreciate the principal behind the anti-consumerst rhetoric, but I think we may be circumventing important IP issues when we use such slogans to get people to come to our party.

  22. Bill Korner says:

    As for free speech, that is disanalogous with most of the (to be) free things discussed in this comment. My speech is free if no one is stopping me from saying what I want. And we, as a community, enjoy freedom of speech to the extent that our opinions are formed based on the interchange of every perspective without restriction. But my wi-fi, scientific papers, New York Times, textbooks, etc. are to be free in the sense that I don’t have to pay the writers, providers, publishers, and by extension shareholders for accessing these things. A “pay for” system for these things might restrict the availability of perpsectives or it might enhance it.

    Intellectual property debates should be about WHO should get paid for these things and BY WHOM, not whether they should be paid for. I think I’m largely in sympathy with the free culture movement on this point. But this “free as in speech not as in beer” dogma is upsetting me because its completely clear that both senses of “free” are in play. Pretending that the “costless” sense is not in play is distorting the discussion.

  23. NathanB says:

    Health care can never be free: doctors, nurses, and treatments have real production costs. However, there’s no reason that we can’t have free/open source drug development, genome databases, and computer generated anatomical models. It would also be nice if people could decide for themselves what drugs to take, but I’m just an anti FDA libertarian 🙂

  24. Melodies. If I can name that tune in five notes, it shouldn’t mean someone owns it.

  25. James Day says:


    Costless is sometimes in play, though it is worth remembering that Jimbo has paid significant personal money, others have contributed significant personal time and still others have contributed money and equipment to host Wikipedia and the other projects the Wikimedia Foundation hosts. Those involved are well aware that freedom to reuse doesn’t eliminate the possibility of financial cost.

    Yet there’s no absolute requirement to pay for content. It’s entirely possible for say a big player in the shipping (ships) business to decide to make their business directory public, encourage others to update it in a wiki and thereby eliminate or dramatically reduce the market for current directories of that sort.

    Now say many in the group wanted to add photogrphs or video content but there was insuffiient supply. If the shared work is in the public domain it’s posible for any player to use it as part of a work incorporating the extra content and charge for the added value. Doing that in a copyleft context is harder, because there would be the potential for immediate competition from other distributors exploiting the copyleft license. Here there’s the same problem copyright law is supposed to solve: the desire for some period of restricted rights for others so those doing new things can recieve some reward to offset their costs. It’s a case where copyleft with time before release of rights to others might have some value in encouraging enhancement of the work.

  26. Leon Gommans says:

    Words, their respective meaning, translation to other languages, synonims etc. must be free. The understandig of the language as we use it needs to be public domain. The common knowledge in the words we speak is owned by mankind and not by those who collect …

    We are just scratching on the surface of the potential technology will bring to communication, Language will play an important role in creating nexts steps …

  27. Does free mean “government subsidized but I pay for it in my taxes and the costs are just hidden to me”?

    Because most everything requires natural resources, even food to create intellectual property. Natural resources are finite, so even though energy will be free with safe, controlled, nuclear power, there’s only so much Earth, and it will take at least another century before we can mine the solar system for more natural resources.

    So goods can be close to free, but there’s always some cost for the natural resources, even if robot armies are harvesting them. Until human greed is eliminated there will be costs to everything, however the shells are moved around. Good luck with that last one, though.

  28. Antoine says:

    The Creative Commons licenses should be free, as the Free Art License is: that is, they should enable a defined and rigorous notion of freedom, not a chicken soup of various licenses with no definite greatest common denominator.

    Please check Towards a Standard of Freedom: Creative Commons and the Free Software Movement by Benjamin Mako Hill.

  29. Joseph Pietro Riolo says:

    To Jimbo Wales:

    If you really don’t care what “free” really means,
    why bother with listing ten things that will become

    Right is not same as freedom as you should have seen
    from the freedom of speech, not right of speech.

    What is left unsaid from your comment is where you get
    the rights that you enumerated. Certainly, you don’t get
    these rights from the thin air. You can’t get the rights
    from the government. Then, where do you get these rights?
    Only the authors can have the rights and only they can
    permit you to participate in their rights. Only they can
    assign rights to you but they can get the rights back
    later on if they want to.

    How can the authors have the rights? Through the ownership.
    When a new work is created, the government automatically
    grants the author a bundle of exclusive rights known as
    intellectual property rights by making the author the
    owner of the work. Now that the work is owned by the
    author, you can’t call this work “free” even if the
    author assigns all of his rights to you. “Free” does
    not coexist with ownership.

    You may not care about the precise definition of “free”.
    That is your business – it is your freedom, after all.
    If James Day’s observation is correct, your disregard
    for the precise definition of “free” will only diminish
    the important role of the public domain against which
    the status of freedom in a work can be measured.

    Joseph Pietro Riolo
    <[email protected]>

    Public domain notice: I put all of my expressions in this
    comment in the public domain.

  30. Kevin Barron says:


    Probably already in your 7 of 10 list, but I would like to say broadcasting will be free. Free speech took a long detour when the printing press overtook the ability of “speaker’s corner” to conduct public speech. Traditional broadcasting further professionalized public discourse, adding enormous barriers to entry.
    Blogging has only partly returned the free in free speech. Audio and video are necessary components to ameliorate the literacy barrier. Equally important is a social construct (nicely exemplified by Wikipedia) to promote
    online public discourse.

  31. J.B. Nicholson-Owens says:

    I’m unaware of what specific freedoms are being talked about when someone from the free culture movement speaks or writes. I think that the free culture movement should name what specific freedoms they are pushing for. I can think of a number of freedoms they could argue for, but some of them conflict with others. If they do this already, I’d appreciate being pointed to a reference. I’ve read the manifesto on freeculture.org/manifesto.php and I don’t see the information I seek.

    Simply copying the same freedoms from the free software movement doesn’t entirely make sense to me when I think of what I would like to do with various non-reference works.

  32. It would be nice if the law were free. Every time we act or refrain from acting, we are within the shadow of the law. It is fundamentally absurd that we have to pay a lawyer to tell us what the law is. Making matters far worse are the “creative” judges and justices who “improve” the law at the expense of the litigant who relied on existing law.

    But a logical stumbling block is the fact that law does not consist of a set of rules, but instead is the application of rules to the specific conduct of specific people. The descriptive phrase often used is “a mixed question of law and fact.” Whenever anyone acts or refrains from acting, her specific circumstances have to be assessed in light of the body of existing law. And yet the body of existing law is made up of millions of applications of the fuzzy rules to the fact-situations that we call cases.

    But even if the “mixed question” problem cannot be solved, nevertheless we can do a lot more than is being done at present to make the law more accessible and knowable. Statutes and judicial decisions, as they are at present, are not written in reader-friendly terms. Indeed, they are often deliberately opaque so as to ensure that people hire lawyers to translate the law for them.

    An internet law source can go a long way toward simplifying legal language, organizing it, and providing frequent underlined links to enable the reader to access additional definitional information. Maybe even a kind of “zoom” function can be incorporated, so that if the reader wants a larger legal context he can zoom out or if he wants more detailed information he can zoom in.

    Anthony D’Amato
    Leighton Professor of Law
    Northwestern University

  33. Laurent Haug says:

    Politics should be free!
    Today’s system is locked by major players in almost all democratic countries. You can not run for president because the logistics and financial implications are well beyond any citizens’ capabilities. I believe (hope) this is about to change. People will reclaim their rights as powerful, free and mainstream communication channels slowly reappear thanks to the internet.

  34. Rob Myers says:

    Does free mean “government subsidized but I pay for it in my taxes and the costs are just hidden to me”?

    I’d say that’s “socialised”. The costs are not hidden, you know you pay taxes. Socialised healthcare is a good thing It’s good if you happen to be unemployed when you get sick. And, paradoxically for libertarians, it’s good if you want a job. See the recent case where a car manufacturer chose Canada rather than the US for a factory because the better social security system made employees more cost effective there.

    “Free” systems, (actually “Open” systems, and I’m a “Free” guy) such as Wikipedia and Linux, are socialised but they are voluntary and distributed, not state-imposed. This is what allows such a diverse collection of interests to support and benefit from them. You’ll notice that no-one is saying that Linux should be patented, or that it should be delayed until after the revolution.

    Law can be open open, see Groklaw.

    And politics is open, see all the wonderful left and right wing blogs (as opposed to the many trollpits).

  35. Laws should be free, and aggregators and indices of law should be free. Citation systems should be free.

  36. Ian Yorston says:

    I’d strongly support any moves to make our Legal systems “free”.

    Any chance of a “Wikilegal” which offers up, statute by statute, the legal code of each nation/state together with an “everyman” interpretation of what it actually means and why it came into being?

    I’m guessing that a great deal of our Law already exists in various digital formats – it just needs a centralised system of access and presentation.

    I’m writing this as a UK citizen currently resident in France. Both those nations have legal constructs which are subservient to the European Union. This blog (and my own) are resident on servers in the USA. And we are all slowly accepting the need for UN legislation and the like…

    And yet, and yet. So much of this Law, international or otherwise, must be framed in similar areas, around similar principles, and with similar (desired) outcomes.

    And if we are truly to be free, we need to recognise and understand the constraints under which we have have agreed to operate.

    A big call I guess. Kinda “Let’s go boil the Oceans”. But worth a go. And I’m hoping that Wikimedia is the framework to get it done?

  37. Light. Light will be free. Not electricity or the power to do work, but simple illumination. We are nearing the stage where low power LED technology will allow the embedding of light emitting materials in malleable materials where the heat of the human body provides sufficient power to drive light production. Throughout history, evolution in the ability to create light, from the campfire to the candle to the gas lamp to the incandescent lamp to the LED, has enabled profound changes in society. Science fiction often equates the ubiquity of light with transcendent abilities or advanced intelligence or monumental power. What will happen to our perception of light in this respect when the darkness of the deepest jungle can be banished by the simple act of a person walking through it shedding light with every step?

  38. goaty says:

    Porn. Porn will be free.

  39. emily. says:

    I don’t know if it will be free someday, but as this is Lessig’s blog, I think the hope that our cultural histories will be free should be mentioned.

    As an art student, I was originally thinking about art history, but I think literary history, pop culture history, all of it should eventually be free as in “I can use it without a cease and desist order” and “I can make a collage and not be sued if I do so.”

    The perpetual extension of copyright limitations (like Disney refusing to let Steamboat Willie go) is a major hurdle in the way, but also standing in the way is the copyright of the documentation of our history. The decent pictures of the Lascaux cave paintings are copyrighted so you can’t use them, although the paintings themselves predate the concept of copyright.

    What we need is a Wikipedia with free illustrations to go with it, to start with.

  40. Georges Jansoone says:

    Science belongs to humanity. Therefore the whole content of scientific papers should be freely available, at least a certain while after publication (6 months, 1 year), and not just their abstracts.

  41. Rob Myers says:

    Porn. Porn will be free.

    Indeed. This seems to be pretty much the point of Second Life. 😉

  42. Rob Myers says:

    Please check Towards a Standard of Freedom: Creative Commons and the Free Software Movement by Benjamin Mako Hill.

    Or the earlier complaints in Free Software Magazine or at the University of Openness.

    Creative Commons seem to be about “Freedom Of Contract” rather than “Free As In Freedom”. Whilst this is as dissapointing to many of their supporters as it is to many of their detractors, it does mean that much of the criticism of them is based on a misunderstanding of their mission.

    It must be said that CC’s name doesn’t help with this. 🙂

  43. Adam R says:

    I have several here

    1) Radio spectrum (broadcasting): The right to transmit data on a particular frequency is treated like property (in a crony-capitalism sense), but soon it will have no market value. Alternative communication systems (wired) and efficient use of the wireless spectrum will decimate the demand for this protected right.

    2) Advertising: Each person will have the ability to quickly communicate with his entire social circle and mass-media will be marginalized. It will be common for information about products, services, and idea to spread quickly by word of mouth–no fee required

    3) International trade/travel: Transportation and communication technologies, along with increased multilingualism will eliminate the natural barriers to international trade/travel, consequently it will be increasingly difficult to enforce artificial barriers.

    4) Currency: It will be technologically easier to produce a counterfeit-proof system. The expansion of trade will provide incentive to develop systems that are better suited for particular persons and markets.

    5) Land: The increased mobility of wealth will force governments to tax the only thing that they really control — the land. The state will extract as much revenue out of the land as possible–just as if they owned it and were leasing it to another party. Since all land-rent will be taken from the “owners”, there will be no benefit to owning the land and the market price will drop to zero. The vast majority of the citizens will realize that nothing has changed except that they no longer pay taxes (they were paying rent anyway)

  44. Micah Sifry says:

    I agree, thanks to the rapidly declining price of broadband connectivity, information and the ability to connect to each other will be free. But if you want to do more than pontificate about some distant future, please recognize that this isn’t just a technological inevitability–it requires mobilizing political will, and that is not evenly distributed.

    Here in New York City we have a candidate, Andrew Rasiej, who is making universal lowcost Wifi a central theme of his campaign. If you want to help make the future happen sooner, get on board: http://www.rasiej.com.

    Micah Sifry
    eCampaign Director
    Advocates for Rasiej

  45. Stbalbach says:

    Bibliographies should be free. If Bibliographies were aggregated with keywords, it would be possible to build an expert system that would be able to recommend books based on keyword searches. The recommendations would be based on “Wisdom of the crowds” since Bibliographies are expert recommendations, they are the original hypertext link. It’s essentiallly the same method Google uses to recommend websites based on keyword searches.

  46. Rob Myers says:

    The decent pictures of the Lascaux cave paintings are copyrighted so you can’t use them, although the paintings themselves predate the concept of copyright.

    Yes, this kind of thing is increasing and makes a mockery of the public domain.

    I appreciate that art needs to be paid for in order to be preserved, but this is not the way to do it.

    What we need is a Wikipedia with free illustrations to go with it, to start with.

    Have you seen Wikimedia Commons? Lots of good art pictures there:

    Wikimedia Commons

    I’d love an open art history.

  47. Rob Myers says:


    Leisure should be free.

    Everyone is concentrating on work, education, striving.

    Leisure (particularly electronic games and team sports) is massively proprietary. That’s just wrong.

    Sports teams should be open. No, seriously, look at how closed ownership of the financial side of a team clashes with the social ownership by the fans.

    Science Fiction TV stories should be open. ” ” ” . Fans couldn’t do worse than Paramount.

    Electronic games would be far better open, at the moment a few engine-writing companies and a tier of content innovators are followed by massive secondary and amateur creativity. How many Quake clones do we need?

    Rendering software for movies would be better open. Everyone writes the same basics then shares their advanced techniques in papers. It’s all a massive reduplication of effort, and only Pixar have the artists as well as the techies.

  48. Joseph Pietro Riolo says:

    To emily:

    Your statement saying that the pictures of the
    Lascaux cave paintings are copyrighted is not
    correct. I am assuming that you are talking
    about the U.S. copyright law. In the U.S.
    copyright law, copyright can only cover the
    the new creative expressions and does not extend
    to anything inside the picture that is not created
    by the photographer or artist. So, not everything
    in the pictures of the Lascaux cave paintings
    is covered by copyright. If the picture that
    you are holding contains some new creative
    expressions, you can just cut them out and what
    remains is in the public domain.

    Joseph Pietro Riolo
    <[email protected]>

    Public domain notice: I put all of my expressions in this
    comment in the public domain.

  49. Josh Cogliati says:

    The 1998 copyright extension was the last. Look at how positively the 1976 copyright extension act was looked at compared to the 1998 one, and compare that to the defeat of Eldred vs Ashcroft. Each time, more and more people care about the copyright. The media companies may try again, but they will never succeed at extending copyright again.

  50. emily. says:

    Joseph: thank you for the clarification of copyright law. What about the decent pictures of the newly cleaned Sistine Chapel? All of the pictures I’ve seen were taken by the camera crew that documented the cleaning and they have huge “copyright by ….” messages in the corners, even in Gardner’s (which is the Art History textbook required at my school). Amateur pictures of the Sistine Chapel are not good enough for study, and those copyright notices are intimidating.

    Rob: thanks for the link to Wikimedia Commons. Unfortunately it is nowhere near what it would need to be to be used for an art history course, for example. Honestly, poster sites are more useful for getting the famous images from art history. It’s a start, though. If Wikimedia could dispatch photographers to the galleries of the world and get them to upload their pictures it would be a start. Unfortunately, many museums forbid photography, even without flash. Stupidly many of those institutions also forbid sketching (a time-honored art student learning tool).

    A Wiki art history would be so useful. Art history textbooks are so expensive and the publishers make them obsolete in less than 2 years by publishing new editions with changes major enough to change the page numbers. This happened to me with Gardner’s Art Through the Ages textbook.

    Iowa State University has a system where all their slides are online, but they are only accessible by ISU students and the department had to get a special grant to license the images, even those without new artistic content that it seems Joseph’s comment would apply to. And the way students use the pictures would count as fair use even.

    I may have strayed from the subject a bit, but I think this is an example of a need that could be filled.

  51. Rob Myers says:

    Wikimedia Commons […] is nowhere near what it would need to be to be used for an art history course, for example. Honestly, poster sites are more useful for getting the famous images from art history. It’s a start, though.

    There are non-commercial repositories of art-historical images on the net, but they are all non-free, having weird access terms similar to those imposed on public domain work on CD ROMs. Possibly we could work to encourage some of them to open up, e.g.artchive (Note to monetarists: “encourage” includes “pay”. It worked for Blender.)

    The American Library of Congress has some public domain art images, but not many international ones.

    Possibly a free index of free images, making projects like Wikimedia and LoC more accessible, would be a good step.

    But for contemporary art we still hit living copyright (unlike many of the artists whose work is now copyrighted).

    If Wikimedia could dispatch photographers to the galleries of the world and get them to upload their pictures it would be a start.

    This worked for Dorling Kidersley allegedly, but I cannot see the galleries doing this in the current environment. Would an archive.org/Prelinger-style deal on low-resolution images being free (and high-resolution being chargeable) be acceptable for art history? For me it wouldn’t be acceptable for making new art.

    Unfortunately, many museums forbid photography, even without flash. Stupidly many of those institutions also forbid sketching (a time-honored art student learning tool).

    Yes. As an artist and ex- art student, finding art being locked away in this manner was the last straw for me. For those of you who know Stallman’s story, this was my “printer driver moment”. 🙂

  52. Joseph Pietro Riolo says:

    To emily:

    The copyright statement that you see on the pictures
    is placed on them out of a bad habit or out of
    photographers’ greed. Although the U.S. copyright
    law has a section that forbids the fraudulent use
    of copyright notice, it is never enforced.

    Not all pictures of old materials are in the public
    domain. Sometimes, photographers change the color
    or perspective for artistic purpose. In this
    case, they can claim copyright over large area of
    picture. But if they attempt to copy the old
    materials as exactly as they can, their copyright
    in such picture will be very thin or non-existent.

    Now that you mentioned museums, I want to want to
    add one more thing that you should be aware of.
    These museums use a legal instrument known as
    license where they can control the uses of the
    old materials. The license can override the
    U.S. copyright law although not all legal scholars
    agree with it. So, even if an old painting is
    entirely in the public domain, museums can create
    licenses with people where they can prevent them from
    making more copies. But, license is not without
    limit. It is only valid between parties that agree
    to terms and conditions. People who are not party
    to license have no obligation to abide by the terms
    and conditions.

    This is the same legal instrument that Wikimedia Commons
    uses. You have to read the license to determine if
    the uses of an image of old material are limited in
    any way even if that old material is in the public
    domain. Just be careful with the materials in
    Wikimedia Commons.

    Joseph Pietro Riolo
    <[email protected]>

    Public domain notice: I put all of my expressions in this
    comment in the public domain.

  53. Free the Supply Chain!

    Transparency and community sharing of knowledge must be brought to bear on the hidden consequences of our daily economic transactions. Exactly what are you supporting when you buy a shirt sewn in Malaysia or conventionally-grown bananas from Honduras? This is arguably the most important freedom of all, since without it we will not succeed in making the transition to sustainability.

  54. Mario says:

    Kids that want fun will be free and weather reports from each single place

  55. Rochelle says:

    I hope that all academic work published in serials will be free in the future. Academics get paid by the universities to produce scholarship, and the universities then have to pay third party distrubutors to get access to that scholarship. Why? For the amount universities pay the distributors, they could be managing the publication and distribution of academic resources themselves. Everyone should have access to that information.

  56. Will says:

    The tools are being developed that will enable massively decentralized large-scale collaborative projects such as: computer games (from FPSs to online worlds) to movies to symphonies. For example:
    I foresee future block-buster movies being made by an online community in wiki-style. The ubiquity of high-power video editing and creation tools will be the enabling technology. As the power and ease-of-use of such tools improve, an online community will be able to cast,shoot,edit,add VFX, etc. in a decentralized way. Once every scene in the (collaboratively written) script has been shot (on hi-res/low cost d-cams) by several different teams the community will cooperatively choose the best particular combination of scenes, then several different stylistic edits and vfx packagings will be proposed and the community will choose the best etc.

  57. Peter Suber says:

    Scientific and scholarly research literature will be free or open access. A growing portion of it already is. The main reason is that scholars are not paid for their journal articles and haven’t been since the birth of scientific journals in 1665. They can consent to open access without losing revenue, unlike most musicians and moviemakers. Another reason is that most scientific literature is publicly funded, and there is a growing demand for public access to publicly-funded research.

  58. Tere says:

    What about sheet music? There’s a clearly defined goal (like in encyclopedia and curricula, to some extent) and semi-objective ways of defining which of two versions is the better.

  59. Things that should be free:

    1) Water, forests and wildlife (AKA natural “resources”)
    2) Speech, information and expression
    3) Public space – parks, streets etc free of advertising and private/corporate ownership/control

    Things that will be free:

    Dystopian/if the right have their way …
    1) markets
    2) corporations
    3) the wealthy and/or powerful

    Utopian/if we fight for our rights …
    1) healthcare, education and other basic public services (some of this is already free here in Canada – but that’s changing)
    2) communication and media
    3) public and natural environments (i.e., free of surveillance, advertising, corporate control and exploitation)

  60. Maria says:

    Right now I am in Venezuela, I just got a labtop and it has a wireless conection, in this moment I´m connected for “free” and looking to your debate here. Internet is deffinitivly a big promess, even thoug in my country not every one has acces to internet, I don´t know about the percentage, is becoming more popular and gives the people the oportynity to choose what to read, what to listen and what to see, besides makes it possible to blur the line between spectator and creator. If internet waves are now (in some places) flying in the air, it is not that hard to expand this possibility and catch this waves for free, I think internet should be and will be free.

  61. emily. says:

    In regards to art history, beginning students don’t need anything much bigger than screen-sized resolution so we can see the composition, colors, and such. A few detail pictures are handy for looking at artist techniques, like glazes and such used by painters and the detail of things like Medieval Celtic jewelry.

    In terms of art history, I’m unconcerned with pictures big enough to use to create new digital artwork. Students should have access to look at works of art without onerous expense. I’m okay with a small fee to cover hosting costs and such. Since we have a great tool like the internet, why can’t the great museums and works of art in the world come to us, rather than us having to go to them just to see what they have. (I do know that seeing a work in person is so much better, but I can’t afford to go see every museum in Europe or even the U.S.)

    But all I want to do is look at art work. I don’t need copies (except for maybe flashcards so I can study for the identification portion of our tests). If I’m inspired by an artwork I can create something referencing it if I look at it only once. A high-res copy truly isn’t necessary.

  62. Sebastien says:

    I understand the world “free” in this context means “the minimum possible restriction to anybody to use their material and immaterial resources for the benefit of the global community, and the unlimited access of anyone to the outcome of such a contribution”.

    To me, what badly needs to be free is the content of policies.

    To achieve this, one way is to open the definition of political parties. Platforms of political parties should be freely and democratically build up by all party members in a collaborative way inspired by the open source communities. Propositions would be freely made and discussed in online workshops. A team of 2 or three people (comprising one of the most active contributors to the workshop) would work out a synthesis, then submit it to online public vote. Vote will be conditionned to proper identification to avoid spoiling by militants from opposing parties, prankers or members trying to cheat.

    There’s a huge demand for people to get more involved in politics, but in a new, flexible, intelligent way. Democracy is yet to be built.

  63. Ray Lawton says:

    Language will be free. Free meaning more directly consensually-defined, computer-understood and translated.

    Art will be free. Art will be created on a massive, distributed scale. What does this mean and how will it happen? I’m not sure, but it feel inevitable. Think of 100 years spent constructing a cathedral, now apply that to the tech world. What could be done here?

    People will be free. In other words, governments will go open source and open boundary. Not in my lifetime, but it will happen if Earth goes on spinning. Think a working U.N.

  64. Rob Myers says:

    To me, what badly needs to be free is the content of policies.

    See http://www.theyworkforyou.com/ for an example of openly analysing government debate and performance (UK Parliament).

  65. Sundance says:

    Four things that will/should be free;

    Law. Not just in terms of access to laws, but access to writing them. Why can’t we all write the laws we live by, via a wiki? I know, it’s a radical proposal, but I expect it would lead to simplified, common-sense laws, and a lot less of the weird-arse “you can’t sell cabbage on a tuesday while wearing brown shoes” nonsense that gets pushed through by special-interest groups or lingers for decades/centuries after cultural expectations have changed.

    Species. Attempts to patent varieties of hybrid (i.e. infertile) or GM food crops so that farmers have to buy new seeds each year from huge corporations (rather than using the seed from last years’ crops) is the agricultural equivalent of software patents (DNA sequences are the software that creates organisms, after all). Hopefully as more of the public becomes aware of the Open-Source movement, they will start to stand up to copyrights/patents in other contexts as well.

    Power. When we have fusion, electricity should be so cheap as to be (virtually) free. That will have flow-on effects (e.g. free electricity to desalinate seawater = free drinking water for third-world countries).

    Stuff. With the advent of 3D printers, it becomes possible to produce almost any item from its digital blueprint – and these digital blueprints can be available under a GPL or equivalent. This process has already begun. So people could someday freely download, build, redesign and modify everything from vacuum cleaner parts to computers or DVD players, for only the price of (cheaply mass-produced) raw materials.

    Maybe these are long-term or pie-in-the-sky goals, and I don’t want to waste space making anything more than simplistic outline statements. But I can see ways these things could happen. If we’re lucky, and smart.

  66. SAW says:

    1) RESEARCH: All research publications will be freely available. Academicians will publish all work in a freely accessible forum.

    2) MUSIC: All music recording and playback will be free. People will pay to see a music performance, live. Recorded music will be free.

  67. SAW says:

    3) INTERNET ACCESS: The internet will be free, ubiquitous, and wireless. ISPs will fade away.

  68. Newman says:

    Most known genealogical information will be freely available in Wiki form. It will be very easy to trace family trees back centuries.

  69. Ronny Max says:

    Here’s one – Free The Opportunity. It assumes knowledge is cumulative. Wikipedia is great, but if one has no idea Williams James existed, why would one search for it? If an individual doesn’t finish middle school, than university is out of the question. Therefore, the question is how to move people across the knowledge stairs and increase their options.

    Part of the answer is economics. Free markets support the free movement of capital, land, and labor. But reality is much messier than theory. So, free opportunity provides a way to jump the hoops with a twist. First, free labor. Despite the hype, most people prefer to live in a place where their families and friends live, and where they are familiar with the culture (and where’s the supermarket). Hence, free labor means loose labor policies, but where health care and pension benefits are regulated, not administered, by the government. It also means free travel visas, limited by time, but without other restrictions. Second, free capital. And I don’t refer only to capital liquidity, but also a free flow of ideas – after all businesses are the source for economic growth. Third, free land. It applies to protection of property, land or intellectual.

    Another part of the answer is politics. Democracy is an abused concept, but the gist of accountability matters most. Accountable systems allow people to influence decisions and create ways to deal with sensitive issues such as culture and religion.

    Hence, free the opportunity stands for ripping restrictions and upping accountability in organizations.

  70. shelby says:

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