Software Freedom, Digital Restriction, and the Age of the Personal Terabyte

Where: Loyola College in Maryland, Knott Hall B01

When: April 12, 2007; 4:00pm

Who: Bradley M. Kuhn

In the first half of this decade, Open Source and Free Software finally achieved a new level of mainstream success; it has become an integral part of our technological infrastructure. Most higher tech businesses, universities, and individuals depend on Free Software infrastructure such as GNU/Linux.

This “new” infrastructure is the culmination of almost three decades of work by individual and institutional contributors who assisted each in their own way to make software that respected, rather than rejected, the rights of users. These freedoms — which allow users to copy, share, modify and redistribute that software — created a unique ecosystem that allowed a community to flourish.

As online file sharing and extremely portable digital media devices become central parts of life in the industrialized world, our culture as a whole faces the same question that has been hotly debate in the software world since its inception: What rights should the holder of some stream of bits have?

Historically, these ethical principles of users’ rights led to the creation and eventual flourishing of the Software Freedom Movement. These core principles, combined with the wide availability of bandwidth and personal file storage, now fall in direct conflict with the goals of the modern cultural robber barons (the large patent- and copyright-holding regimes).

In this talk, Kuhn introduces the historical context that led to this conflict, explains the motivations of the key parties, and presents the positions that must be upheld for the advancement of Software Freedom Movement and open source software.

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