Brown Free Culture

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Brown Free Culture

 Introduction to Brown Free Culture

Our project consists of a Web Documentary, artist statement and mediagraphy, as well as online profiles in MySpace and Facebook all designed to document the evolution of our group's artistic and intellectual activity surrounding the establishment of a Brown Free Culture Group.

 Brown Free Culture Web Documentary

 Group Members

Sonya Goddy
Quint Stevenson
Christina Ducruet
Zachary McCune

Artist's Statement

 Artist's Statement

 Our "Free Culture" project centers upon participation in the nationwide student organization FreeCulture.org, "a diverse, non-partisan group of students and young people who are working to get their peers involved in the free culture movement." The Free Culture movement aims to harness the democratizing power of digital technology for the common good, rejecting a paradigm of consumption and ownership for one of participation, collaboration and creativity.  Some of the specific goals of the movement involve resisting the commodification of culture by powerful media conglomerates, expanding fair use provisions that allow people to use copyrighted material in artistic, academic and cultural contexts, and exploring alternativesto the traditional copyright system. Increasingly restrictive laws surrounding copyright and intellectual property trump the rights of individuals and society, limiting intellectual freedom in order to keep creative power in the hands of a privileged few.  At this pivotal moment of technological and cultural change, the Free Culture movement aims to defend digital technology and the Internet as empowering tools for the common person.

To this end, FreeCulture.org provides resources for students, reaches out to youth and the general public, and advocates on behalf of its members on vital open-source/free culture issues.  A Brown Free Culture chapter will allow interested students to benefit from the collaborative power of this organization, and to participate in student-run Free Culture activity nationwide. Brown students enjoy the ability to pursue individualized and highly creative college experiences; we're encouraged to explore alternatives to dominant discourses, question ideological systems, and arrive at informed conclusions about how to affect social change.  We are therefore confident that we will find enthusiasm and passion for Free Culture among our Brown peers, a highly engaged cross-section of the technologically savvy generation most effected by Free Culture issues.

Our initial goals included creating an e-mail list of members for Fall 2007 and seeking "Student Activity Group" status at Brown (which would make us eligible for funding and other resources).  After setting up the necessary infrastructure, we turned our attention to the promotion and activity of the group itself. In terms of promoting the presence of Brown Free Culture on campus, we felt that innovative, creative approaches were necessary, since we are foming at the end of the academic year.

One such approach is our "Free Culture Drop Boxes," stylized boxes of cultural matter that we plan to position at high traffic areas of campus.  We will encourage students to interact with the cultural materials within an open-source or "free culture model by "re-branding" the items with commands such as "Copy Me," "Mix Me," "Re-Mix Me," "Rip Me," "Share Me."  For this aspect of our project, we have collected many objects, including tapes, CDs, books, magazines, records and books on tape.  We postponed the execution of this event, however, when our attention shifted to the pressing issue of the RIAA's recent pursuit of 12 Brown students for copyright infringement.

We found new purpose and passion through this galvanizing event.  The implications of the RIAA's actions at Brown, and 22 other universities, spawned a lively discussion among our group and produced a heated email conversation among members of our Open Source Culture class.  This open and highly charged dialogue among our peers helped us to re-articulate our plans for the establishment of Brown Free Culture as a reaction against the RIAA's actions. We aren't saying that copyright should be abolished, or that all file sharing should be legalized.  But we do want to point a finger at the ethical and moral issues involved in the RIAA's current scare tactics for recuperating money. We believe that the punishment (a $3,000 settlement) is excessive given the nature of the crime, and  we want to express disappointment with the way Brown University has buckled under the legal pressure of the RIAA and hope to open a dialogue with our administration on future alternatives.  

We plan to combine open source art-making practices, guerrilla promotional tactics and student interaction on campus to raise awareness about the RIAA's actions. In the short term, we'll be stimulating artistic and cultural production, and helping to raise awareness about an extremely vital and accessible issue for the student community at large; in the long term, we'll create enough buzz and interest in Brown Free Culture to help sustain the chapter in the coming academic year.  So far, we have created www.brownfreeculture.org, a web documentary about Brown Free Culture and the RIAA suits at Brown; we have spoken with the Electronic Frontier Foundation; and interviewed with the Brown Daily Herald which published a feature on Brown Free Culture, April 27, 2007. Perhaps most importantly, we are organizing a Free Culture Party for the 12 Brown students forced to pay the RIAA settlements of $3,000 each.  For this event we will use our "Free Cultured" objects and DIY Dance Mixes as promotional invitations to the event.  The Free Cultured objects, originally imagined as the contents of a Free Culture Drop Box, will instead be "freed" from the box and distributed to the Brown community.  The DIY Dance Mix consists of blank CDs with instructions to burn a mix for the party.  These objects represent literally the potential of open access to culture whereby found objects are transformed and "free cultured." 

Mediagraphy

Art Works:

Superflex: Free Beer

Texts:

Malcolm Gladwell.  "Something Borrowed." The New Yorker 22 November 2004. [Online: http://www.gladwell.com/2004/2004_11_25_a_borrowed.html]
Lawrence Lessig: Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity. Penguin Books: New York, 2004.
Lawrence Lessig: The Future of Ideas: The Fate of the Commons in a Connected World. Vintage: New York, 2002.
Siva Vaidhyanathan: Copyrights and Copywrongs: The Rise of Intellectual Property and How It Threatens Creativity. NYU Press: New York, 2001.
United States.  Cong. House.  The United States Constitution.  [Online: http://www.house.gov/house/Constitution/Constitution.html]
United States.  U.S. Copyright Office.  U.S. Code Title 17.  [Online: http://www.copyright.gov/title17/circ92.pdf]

Internet Directory:

Resources:

Articles:

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