The Empire Strikes Back

John Naughton, writing in The Guardian (UK), is one of the few observers to see the WikiLeaks case for what it is:  “the first really sustained confrontation between the established order and the culture of the internet.  There have been skirmishes before, but this is the real thing.”

It’s difficult to make predictions about a story that is still unfolding, but the U.S. Government’s response to the WikiLeaks disclosures make two things quite clear:  1) that the world’s oldest democracy is not really committed to open debate, citizen accountability and due process; and 2) nation-states, in quiet collusion with key corporations, share an interest in curbing the open Internet in order to limit its disruptive impact on their power.

While the U.S. lectures China about the virtues of an open Internet, what happens when that very ideal is applied to the U.S. Government?  The disclosures expose stunning deceit, mendacity, incompetence and corruption, and the U.S. Government goes into attack mode against WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange. 

The Commons as a New Sector of Value-Creation

Remarks by David Bollier


“Economies of the Commons:

Strategies for Sustainable Access and

Creative Reuse of Images and Sounds Online”


De Balie Centre for Culture and Politics

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

April 12, 2008


            I start with a bit of wisdom I once picked up from Thomas Berry, an historian of cultures, who wrote:  “The universe is the communion of subjects, not a collection of objects.” 

As commercial interests try to convert what has essentially been a commons into a total market order, the Internet is experiencing a mid-life crisis.  The open Internet is in the process of being enclosed by a variety of commercial forces.  The struggle for political and creative freedom is getting more urgent and complicated as commercial forces try to “develop” the Internet.

The challenge for people who believe in free culture is to reinterpret the core values of the Internet and somehow develop new ways to protect them in today’s more complicated environment.

FLOSS as Commons:  What is the way, what are the actions for having FLOSS acknowledged globally as a strategic and crucial common for knowledge society?  Is FLOSS paving the way for bigger initiatives and larger variety of commons?

Why Software = Politics

As more of daily life moves to the Internet, the political implications of software design become more apparent. A case is point: the Russian government's practice of seizing computers from various citizen advocacy groups because they allegedly contain "pirated" Microsoft software.

As reported in the New York Times, Russian security forces are "confiscating computers under the pretext of searching for pirated Microsoft software." The raids appear to be politically motivated because the most frequent targets seem to be groups like Baikal Environmental Wave, which is fighting pollution in Lake Baikal; Golos, an election monitoring group; the Foundation to Support Tolerance advocacy group; and a variety of dissident newspapers.

Raids and prosecutions occur even though groups can often verify that they purchased their software legally. But Microsoft doesn't object to the political raids because it has too much of a stake in collaborating with the Russian government to fight pirated software.

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