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  4. <title>Free Software in Society</title>
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  6. <body>
  7. <h1>Free Software preserves our system</h1>
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  12. <h3>Development</h3>
  13. <p>When thinking about Free Software, it should be seen as an encompassing
  14. concept for a reliable, sustainable and dependable information and knowledge
  15. society involving all stakeholders.</p>
  16. <p>The price we are paying for the predominance of the proprietary software
  17. approach is high. Because the proprietary software paradigm has a strong,
  18. system-inherent monopolising tendency [<A NAME="ref1"
  19. HREF="#1">1</A>] and software permeates all areas of
  20. economy, northern economies suffer and southern countries are given the
  21. choice between exclusion or co-suffering in total dependence. That is why
  22. breaking up Microsoft without a change in paradigm would not improve the
  23. situation significantly. Free Software, on the other hand, brings back
  24. competition while allowing cooperation among companies, people, and
  25. governments. All of these equally available and empowering to all the
  26. peoples.</p>
  27. <p>While minorities remain at the mercy of large multinational companies
  28. regarding support for their culture and language when using proprietary
  29. software, Free Software gives them freedom to modify all software according
  30. to their needs. Thus, Free Software also allows building a sustainable local
  31. hard- and software industry independent from monopolies and large
  32. multinationals. Of course cooperation with large companies is possible and
  33. may be useful, but while dependency is the price to pay for such cooperation
  34. in proprietary software, Free Software provides independence.</p>
  35. <h3>Equality</h3>
  36. <p>The design, development and use of software is increasing in all societies.
  37. Increasingly, access to software is largely determining our capabilities for
  38. education, communication, work and even social networking. This includes
  39. building social movements, promoting citizenship and transparent democracy as
  40. well as general governmental and health services.</p>
  41. <p>Software in general has grown into northern societies to a very large extent
  42. and if development policies are successful, this will also be true for
  43. southern societies at some point in time. Therefore software must be
  44. considered a cultural technique, sometimes even a cultural good.</p>
  45. <p>For all central cultural techniques, we have to ask who should be put in
  46. control of it. Proprietary software puts large northern multinationals in
  47. control. [<A NAME="ref2" HREF="#2">2</A>] Free Software
  48. makes this cultural technique equally available to all the peoples.</p>
  49. <h3>Human Rights</h3>
  50. <p>For those who are connected - and we surely hope this will mean all the
  51. peoples at some point - human rights of participation in culture, freedom of
  52. speech and opinion are influenced to a large extent by their control over the
  53. software they use, as are freedom of association and movement. Software forms
  54. the medium. Unlike the proprietary approach, Free Software gives each person
  55. full control about their personal information space. Although this alone is
  56. not sufficient to grant privacy and security, it is a necessary
  57. prerequisite.</p>
  58. <h3>Preventing Technocracy - upholding democracy</h3>
  59. <p>Legislation should be developed by democratically elected representatives in
  60. a transparent way. Even in situations where this is true, rights that cannot
  61. be exercised remain empty. Granting rights on paper does not mean people will
  62. have the means of exercising them.</p>
  63. <p>The complexity of modern systems alone makes it a difficult task to uphold
  64. democracy in the digital domain, but the overall intransparency of
  65. proprietary software makes it impossible. Unless you are using Free
  66. Software, the rights you can or cannot exercise are determined by the
  67. proprietary software vendor - it is the vendors decision alone, a decision
  68. that nowadays is often given precendence over the democratic legislative
  69. process.</p>
  70. <p>Good examples are the European Copyright Directive (EUCD) and Digital
  71. Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), both implementations of the "The World
  72. Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Copyright Treaty" (December 1996).
  73. While the DMCA already gained notoriety for enabling censorship of
  74. Scientology-critical sites in the United States, [<A NAME="ref3"
  75. HREF="#3">3</A>] the German implementation of the EUCD is
  76. silently making the right to fair use inaccessible. Although laws clearly
  77. state that customers have the right to copy a CD for their car stereo or even
  78. a friend, those who exercise this right on so-called "copy protected" CDs
  79. or on any DVD now risk punishment. And if you think this is where it ends,
  80. feel free to read the EFF paper on so-called "Trusted Computing" (TC). [<A
  81. NAME="ref4" HREF="#4">4</A>] </p>
  82. <p>Proprietary software effectively puts an area that was previously governed
  83. by democratically elected representatives into the hand of corporations,
  84. therefore establishing technocracy. [<A NAME="ref5"
  85. HREF="#5">5</A>] </p>
  86. <h3>Summary</h3>
  87. <p>All of our hard work to defend and promote human rights, gender equality,
  88. rights of the disadvantaged, a free media, privacy and security, digital
  89. solidarity and other issues is in danger of having been for naught if the
  90. information age is based on proprietary software.</p>
  91. <p>Free Software alone is certainly not enough to overcome all problems - but
  92. it is a necessity to empower people to exercise the rights we are fighting
  93. for in the information societies.</p>
  94. <h3>References</h3>
  95. <p>[<A NAME="1" HREF="#ref1">1</A>] Explanation of these mechanisms will gladly be provided, if of interest.</p>
  96. <p>[<A NAME="2" HREF="#ref2">2</A>] Side note: Which should
  97. not be understood as a good thing for people in the northern countries. It is
  98. not.</p>
  99. <p>[<A NAME="3" HREF="#ref3">3</A>] For reference, see <code class="footnote">
  100. <A NAME="ref11"
  101. HREF=""></A></code>
  102. (not available any more)</p>
  103. <p>[<A NAME="4" HREF="#ref4">4</A>] <code class="footnote">
  104. <A NAME="ref13" HREF=""></A></code></p>
  105. <p>[<A NAME="5" HREF="#ref5">5</A>] Technocracy: "Government by technicians or management of society by technical experts." (Merriam Webster Dictionary)</p>
  106. </body>
  107. <timestamp>$Date: 2010-02-22 12:22:10 +0100 (Mon, 22 Feb 2010) $ $Author: maelle$</timestamp>
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