Law in the Internet Society

Beginning to Understand the Free Software Movement

-- By YusufBavi - 23 Oct 2021

My Idea

The ideas behind the free information movement, and the idea of anarchist production and distribution, are compelling to me. Our course introduced me to the following ideas: 1) the net is a social condition, a new and now inevitable reorganization of society; 2) society is organizing so that "users" of the net are becoming its endpoints; and 3) a loss of choice, a forfeiture of freedom occurs as a result of the society organizing around the net this way. I gather from the lectures, what I have read in Snowden's "Permanent Record", and my few childhood memories involving computers linked to the internet, that the net began as a more free, but less accessible and less accessed space. When more people began to log in, it prompted companies to monetize the net and governments to control it. The success of the free software movement stands to open countless doors for innovation, but it could also counteract the current trend towards users becoming the endpoints for technology.

How I Came by The Idea and How it Relates to Other Ideas

Now that I understand the idea, the concern, I can see it presented in various media and I can recognize it being discussed. In all honesty, I did not understand the idea to this extent last year when I took Professor Moglen's course, I understood a fraction of it or I understood the whole of it through a hazy veneer. After taking the course, I ruminated on the lectures. I didn't read much of the assigned reading, but I did pay attention when I was in class and after the course, I continued to pay attention and assimilate new information into what I had learned. I understood that people were not in control of their devices, that we respond to our software instead of making it respond to us. I did not see how free software would change that.

In the spring semester after our class or in the summer, I began reading some books on psychology, hermeticism, and Jungian metaphysics in my free time. The telos behind this stuff shifted from wanting to make a comeback from a traumatic event, to improving in my career and schoolwork, to improving as a person and pursuing things that are truly and consistently meaningful. During my literary journey I encountered the idea that we could reprogram our minds. In a nutshell, the idea was that many people had mistaken libertinism for liberty. That it is rare that we are in control of ourselves because we are programmed by our environment, heredity, concern for others' perceptions, etc. and unless we make time to clear that program and program ourselves, we become an automaton.

At that time, I considered my environment. I cleaned and organized, I listened to instrumental music like jazz. I journaled. I controlled my environment, but my mental space did not reflect the control that I was exercising over my environment. I realized that my phone, as innocuous as I thought that it was with its "do not disturb" setting activated, was no less a portal. One that was always open and permitted strange attention-sucking creatures to enter and trample over my focus and lay eggs. I turned my attention to the phone, I wanted to cast it aside, but I felt like I needed it for school and life. I wanted to divorce her, but I had to stick it out for the kids. I started looking at my phone more resentfully because it was in the way of what I was trying to accomplish with my study and practice. Contemplating how obstructive it was, I saw the similarity between what I was trying to do — to clear my own programming and program my mind to function in a way that I wanted it to instead of just responding to its programming— and the ideas of the free software movement that Professor Moglen discussed. This is a rough description of how I came to understand the content more practically and how I arrived at the idea in the first section.

Objections, Expansions, Limitations

Prior to this class, I had not made much study of the ideas of the free software and ".communism", so I was confused when I read about them. When I reviewed my reading, I understood the breadth of the ideas and favored them because I resonate with a increase in agency, freedom of choice, resonates with me. During the lecture, after we understood the possible ways in which free software might change the prospects for people globally, and meet demands quicker, one of my classmates raised a question about whether more people being able to access and improve software was worth ignoring the dead dogma that patents protect innovation, given that maybe few out of the many people, will make use of the software as intended.The professor made it clear that what utility came of the free software was persuasive to his decision, but that what controlled was a freedom of choice.

I know enough to know that I cannot give an appraisal of what positive impact free software could have on the world. Hardware, meaning computational devices, is everywhere. Hardware interprets software, and so each piece of hardware can be made to have a number of applications. Memory, processing power, and other factors impose hard limits on the amount of applications that hardware can serve, but the human minds that create the software push the possibilities closer to infinity. I can't grasp the benefits, so it is difficult to push back on the moral argument for free software in earnest.

Conclusion and Continuations

By making software free, more users would become innovators and creators. Users would be able to manipulate their software to program their devices to their own needs instead of purchasing the product and molding themselves around it and in some cases being molded by it. Everyday users would become more comfortable with making small adjustments to their software and with time, the person who did not make some change to the software that they downloaded to accommodate their needs, would be the odd man out.

Hardware with a limited ability to interpret customized software would become a barbarous relic. Hardware options might not move far past their current limits, as companies and factories would still be the ones to gather the raw materials and assemble them into usable components. Even still, as people became more accustomed to modifying their software, they too might begin to opt for assembling their own hardware instead of purchasing it completely assembled from a manufacturer. By moving in this direction, the direction of free software, we would be moving in the direction of both sharing and individuation. Both are important to homo sapiens' experience and are ruined by the top-down approach that exists at the other end of the spectrum.

First improvement needed is thorough proofreading. No lawyer's writing should ever go abroad without proofreading and double-checking. Make it a habit and you will never have occasion for regret.

You have not said anything to explain your references to "hardware." Some specifics would be very helpful.

"Structure" and "agency" are what Raymond Williams called "keywords," embedding so many meanings and intellectual histories in the compass of one sign that they almost always need careful unpacking everywhere they're used.

This draft has many sentences in it about caution in the thought process. Writing is so often a matter of "show, don't tell." Here too: the next draft improves not by declaring caution, but by showing confidently the results of balanced thinking.

You are entitled to restrict access to your paper if you want to. But we all derive immense benefit from reading one another's work, and I hope you won't feel the need unless the subject matter is personal and its disclosure would be harmful or undesirable. To restrict access to your paper simply delete the "#" character on the next two lines:


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r5 - 01 May 2023 - 06:35:27 - YusufBavi
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