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[liberationtech] [FEMBOT] Copyleft and Capital: The free software and free culture movments’ orientation towards liberty and rights at the expense of coherent ideology and meaningful transformation

Emaline emaline at
Wed Jan 17 10:27:31 PST 2018

Hey there,

Your work sounds really interesting. I'm versed in the thought you've 
mentioned, and would be happy to provide some feedback. A little bit 
about me: I'm a researcher/activist currently working with a tech group 
developing free software called Holochain (a post-blockchain alternative 
/ commons transition digital enviro). My background is in 
psychoanalysis, so the reactionary and self-defeating tendencies are of 
great interest to me :) Perhaps I could begin with your first chapter?

Take care,


On 01/16/2018 11:31 PM, Kyra wrote:
> Hello all,
> I've been working on a multi-part analysis of the online privacy and 
> free software/culture movements critiquing a lot of the reactionary 
> and self-defeating tendencies within them, and (hopefully) offering 
> some possibilities for stronger ways to organize around these ideas. 
> I'd love feedback from others who are well versed in critical race 
> theory, postcolonial studies, and dialectical and historical materialism.
> It's called Copyleft and Captial, and is made up of three parts for 
> which I will paste the summaries below. Please let me know if you 
> would be interested in reading it, or a section of it, and I can send 
> you a copy!
> 1. Treachery of the Commons: Media’s Commodity and Ideological 
> Characteristics
> The free culture movement advocates for copyright and intellectual 
> property reform, or total abolishment thereof. In doing so, its 
> proponents celebrate democratizing, decentralizing, and utopian 
> qualities of digital technology and the internet. While they argue for 
> greater artistic freedom, creativity, and innovation, they ignore the 
> greater part of the damage inflicted by, or rather through, 
> intellectual property. The continued legacies of colonialism, racism, 
> and slavery live on through whatever commodity forms exist within 
> capitalism, and a holistic critique not only of private IP such as 
> copyright, trademark, and patents, but also of the commons, public 
> domain, and free culture is needed for a movement against the former 
> to have salience for those marginalized peoples who have endured the 
> brunt of economic and cultural devastation enabled by private 
> immaterial property.
> 2. Some Were Already Anonymous: The Liberalism of Privacy Rights and 
> the Persistence of Surveillance
> The rise of user tracking, data mining, and other forms of digital 
> surveillance has, in some capacity, been met with a growing movement 
> for online privacy, digital rights, and cyber security. Digital 
> technology is often offered as an empowering force for the public 
> while also constituting the vast majority of the broad and ubiquitous 
> apparatus of mass surveillance. Examining the work and messaging of 
> prominent technologists and technology-focused organizations in the 
> arena of free software (also popularly marketed as open source 
> software) as they tackle issues of privacy, this paper considers the 
> types of surveillance that are challenged by technology-focused 
> approaches, their limits, and the extent to which these projects 
> address the stratified use and impact of different forms of 
> surveillance across populations.
> 3. The freer the software, the freer the user:The self-defeating 
> liberalism of the free software movement
> The free software movement, while rarely expressed in these most 
> critical terms, opposes outright the private ownership of software 
> and, to a lesser extent, any means by which technology users are 
> detached or restricted from having full control over their data and 
> computing. While that may not sound particularly reformist in its own 
> right at that fundamental standpoint, and with some modification or 
> alternative approach may even hold some value for radical leftists, 
> the reactionary liberalism of the free software movement as a whole 
> becomes evident when pulling into examination its foundational texts, 
> formative contributors, and contemporary advocacy materials. This 
> paper interrogates the motivations, rationale, tactics, ideology, and 
> impact of  this particular movement to outline its contradictions, 
> limitations, and shortcomings. In unpacking the so-called philosophy 
> of free software (also called libre software), the movement reveals 
> itself to be detrimentally single-minded, politically innocuous, and 
> ultimately self-defeating. What possibilities lie in potential 
> attempts at salvaging or towards recalibration of some driving 
> concepts behind the constructions of “free software” and “user 
> freedom,” or what valuable affinities with other struggles might be 
> forged from an entirely different starting point?
> Warmly,
> Pang Yue Hung

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