I've been waiting for something exactly like this to form since the O'Reilly P2P Conference in Washington DC last year, when I was having lunch with a friend of mine and he asked me if I was "working the halls" while I was in DC.
I, of course, had no idea what he was talking about at the time, but it brought up an interesting question: if I was to get some "face time" with a politician that was ready to actually listen to what I had to say, who do I represent exactly? It's a question that I've had written on my white board in my kitchen for the last seven months in bold red letters: Who do I represent?
What about Napster's 70 million users? Who's representing them? What if only ten percent of the Napster users wrote one letter to their congressman? What if? What if? What if?
No more time for "what ifs" people: it's time to get together and fight!
Richard Stallman's keynote today made me think about how not sharing source code (speech) is like not sharing any other kind of knowledge, and another way for "the man" (embellishment my own) to fragment the masses in order to stop them from collaborating so they won't have a chance to pose any real threat to the larger monopolistic power structure (that has more time and money and resources than they do individually).
I don't know why I never thought about it before -- but wow, he's totally right. "They" have managed to do it to us again -- convincing the public (the "average programmer at-large") that it is somehow in their best interests to withhold knowledge from others and not benefit on what others have learned based on the fallacy that doing so will somehow lead to greater weath for them as an individual in the long run. (Although, in reality, of course, it only leads to the greater wealth of the monopolies already in power.)
To further convince us that we are powerless individuals without any political power, when the only reason we don't have any political power is because our knowledge is not being shared is just the icing on the cake! Whether that knowledge is about software or medicine or machinery or whatever - we as individuals can't amass it ourselves - we have to share. If that sharing is made illegal, guess what: we lose. Game Over.
One of our most important rights is our Right to Peaceably Assemble. It sure seems to me that restricting our right to publish certain kinds of information (like that prohibited by the DMCA) is much like not allowing a group to assemble and communicate with each other. It certainly isn't very democratic. It certainly isn't a characteristic of any sort of "free society".
So with all this in mind: It's time to start assembling -- both online and off. There are more of us than there are of them. Why are we letting them push us around? Their arguments don't even make sense, but they're simple enough for non-technical politicians to wrap their around when they're accepting the check that comes with them. We need better, more simple arguments, the voting power to back them up and the political contributions to get their attention in the first place (here's where GeekPAC comes in).
Lawrence Lessig used a quote from Congressman JC Watts, Jr. in his Keynote today: "If you're explaining, you're losing." The situation is complicated, but we have to find a way to explain it succinctly (in 15 minutes or less would be a reasonable first goal perhaps? -- then we can try for 5 minutes -- then (gasp) we can take a shot at something even more concise (that's right kids, can you say "advertising slogan"?).
Speaking of catchy advertising slogans, I thought of a bumper sticker today:
"I'm a Geek and I vote."
Anyhoo, maybe with an organization like GeekPAC we can get started on creating a simple, straight-forward message that both coders, corporations and the average consumer can understand and support quickly.
What a truly inspiring day today (yesterday at this point). I better crash so I'll have energy to finish blogging it in the am.Posted by Lisa at July 25, 2002 12:23 AM | TrackBack