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Student Free Culture Movement

THIS FRIDAY AT SWARTHMORE College, Downhill Battle will be at the kick-off event of the new international student movement for free culture. Leading copyright intellectual Lawrence Lessig will be giving a talk about his new book, Free Culture, and the first meeting of this new student organization (no official name yet) will follow. Swarthmore is just outside Philadelphia, and you’re all invited. Check out the press release hosted on the new freeculture.org.

“Free culture” is the idea that culture should be open, shared, and collaborative and shouldn’t be locked down by governments or corporations. It’s ‘free as in free speech’, not as in ‘free stuff’. In music, that means sampling rights for artists, it means fair use rights for the public, and it means freeing independent music from the major label monopoly that maginalizes indie labels and musicians and bribes radio stations to keep them off the air.

This new student organizing project is beginning as a collaboration between the Swarthmore Coalition for the Digital Commons (SCDC) and Downhill Battle, but it’s going to get a lot bigger than that. Students have always been in a unique position of power; they have energy, free time, and influence over some of societies most powerful institutions: colleges and universities. And there’s already a huge amount of interest on campuses in issues such as filesharing, online rights, copyright reform, and open-source software. Imagine what could happen if that interest turned into political action. That’s exactly what Swarthmore’s SCDC is already doing; it’s working, and it’s going to spread fast.

For example, what if students across the US and around the world demanded that their schools only use free and open-source software in computer labs and administrative offices? Tons of students are absolutely fanatical about linux, and they have the political power on campus to make this happen, whether they realize it or not. All they need is a little kick to start thinking strategically about spreading linux and then to get outside and make it happen. Spreading linux means curtailing Microsoft’s ability to force DRM schemes onto the public. That is a very big deal for the future of music.

Big thanks to Deity Limited for developing the freeculture.org site. It’s a modular, standards-based, open-source weapon of justice.

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