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The Flower of Free Culture · Friday April 02, 2010 by Crosbie Fitch

Let a billion flowers bloom, let a billion intellects abound – it is cultural liberty, not its constraint that promotes progress in science, technology, and the arts.
(cf “bǎi huā qífàng, bǎi jiā zhēngmíng”)

Let all of us who would expedite the restoration of our cultural liberty mark our works of free culture with a logo of liberation instead of a symbol of constraint.

There cannot be a free culture license because a license is an intrinsic impediment to cultural freedom (being a submission to copyright, let alone fraught with incompatibility and re-licensing issues), so it would be counter-productive and, despite the best of intentions, hypocritical to promote licenses as a means of achieving cultural emancipation.

A free culture is not a culture in which people must scrupulously analyse and adhere to licenses, perform due diligence with regard to exploring every work’s provenance for copyright clearance purposes, and generally remain alert to consequent copyright risks in all their cultural engagements. A free culture is one in which everyone is free to share and build upon any work they see, hear or receive – all mankind’s published art and knowledge – that which by natural right already belongs to the public, the people.

Unlike a license, a logo is a lightweight means of asserting that a work is to be considered free culture and that it is endorsed as such by an adherent of free culture. It can be used like a ‘peace’ sticker (’☮’), so it doesn’t matter if it appears or is omitted. It is an affirmative rejection of the current cultural antagonism that one should consider issues of copyright and its potential legal repercussions when engaging in what is perfectly natural cultural intercourse and exchange: the sharing and creating of works of art.

A free culture logo must therefore be license agnostic. It does not recognise copyright, and consequently cannot recognise any license. If a logo is required to identify a copyright license that is sympathetic to free culture, then the logos at freedomdefined.org can be used. The free culture flower logo is simply used to mark a work of free culture. One is for lawyers and those in fear of them, the other is for libertarians and those who refuse to live in fear.

In accord with cultural freedom (and against trademark law’s descent into propertisation of words and symbols), we don’t need to define a single free culture logo. As with road signs, we can instead specify a simple set of rules that should make a free culture logo recognisable and hopefully ideogrammatic. Naturally, everyone is free to copy, improve, transform, and combine any logos to come up with their own. The logo I’ve created is simply to start the ball rolling. The logo is itself a work of free culture.

The symbol:

  • It is akin to the copyright symbol, but is to serve as its antithesis.
  • It must be recognisable as an encircled flower accompanied by a literal expression that denotes ‘free culture’.

The flower:

  • The flower is alive and healthy, wild or cultivated, and in full bloom.
  • A yellow, five petalled, water buttercup is suggested as a suitable flower, but anything readily recognisable as a flower will do (culturally appropriate).
  • Flowers connoting aspects of promiscuity, fecundity, and abundance, are to be preferred over others, e.g. better a garden daisy than a rare orchid.
  • Multiple flowers may signify a collection of works, or a work of multiple authors.

The circle:

  • The circle may be dashed or discontinuous to indicate a lack of enclosure (and appropriation readiness viz. ‘cut along dotted line’).
  • If not monochrome, the circle should be blue to symbolise planet Earth as mankind’s cultural domain (contrasting with the cultural stagnancy of copyright’s black circle).

The letters:

  • In English the abbreviation (or ligature) should be ‘fc’ for ‘free culture’, but in other languages an equivalent abbreviation of the translations of ‘free culture’, ‘cultural liberty’, or ‘artistic freedom’ may be used.
  • Script or lowercase lettering should be preferred for its caressing and diminutive tone, i.e. that cultural liberty is the natural state to be rediscovered, not something to be imposed through capital conquest, pressed metal, or stone chiselled domination.

The alphanumeric version:

  • If a graphic symbol is not possible in a given context, then a literal equivalent can serve, e.g. ‘(f*c)’ in place of ‘(C)’. The asterisk can denote a flower.

Description of the Logo

This logo is usually added to an intellectual work (or collection) to indicate to potential recipients that it has been produced or provided by one or more free culturalists (adherents of free culture). The logo may also be used by individuals and organisations to identify themselves as free culturalists, e.g. as a badge.

Producers of free culture are paid directly, and so their exchanged works may be subsequently communicated, reproduced, or distributed without royalty or license fee. Once a work of free culture has been received by you (whether as a gift or purchase) you or anyone you authorise can freely enjoy, reproduce, perform, communicate, or otherwise exploit it. Everyone who enjoys it is invited to commission the respective artists involved in its production to produce further works.

There may be a ‘copyleft’ or copyright neutralising license available for some works of free culture, but it is not required or indicated by this logo.

Some free culturalists do not provide copyright licenses to their work because they do not recognise the validity of that 18th century privilege, either attaching to their original work or to the original works they may incorporate, copy, derive from, or be inspired by.

The Logo as a Statement

Whether a license is provided or not, no assurances can be made concerning whether a work of free culture (or copy) is wholly or partly original, authorised, ‘protected’ by copyright, or an intrinsic copyright infringement.

These are a few of the assurances that can be made by free culturalists concerning works to which a free culture logo is attached:

  1. No litigation will ever be initiated by a free culturalist against any individual for an act of copyright infringement concerning this work, any derivatives, or any works it derives from.
  2. Any copyright a free culturalist holds to this work will not be voluntarily assigned or transferred to any other individual or organisation that is not also an adherent of free culture.
  3. All elements of this work are implicitly attributed to their respective authors, and if explicit attribution is provided it may vary in level of detail (and provenance). Any unwitting explicit or implicit misattribution will be remedied as far as is practicable, and as soon as possible upon notice.
  4. No use is knowingly made of work obtained through unauthorised access.

The Website

Domain name: fclogo.org

The fclogo.org domain name has been registered at which a wiki is hosted for people to upload their own versions of a free culture logo, and to provide further documentation.

It is suggested that free culture logos are hyperlinks to fclogo.org, i.e. http://www.fclogo.org

HTML:

The HTML code for the free culture logo should look something like this:

<a href="http://www.fclogo.org">
<img src="/MyURL/MyFreeCultureLogo.png" alt="Free Culture Logo" />
</a>

Remember: you’re free to copy any free culture logo or make a derivative or even an original. Host your own logo and link to that. Don’t link to someone else’s logo – that’s a bad habit encouraged by copyright. If you want to use a logo hosted elsewhere then copy it!

The FAQ

Why a flower?

If you have authorised access to a work of free culture then, like a flower, it can be naturally and freely:

  • admired and enjoyed by the senses for pleasure or inspiration
  • used in whole or part as an ingredient in other works
  • reproduced indefinitely
  • collected into necklaces for commercial exploitation (without royalty)
  • harvested for its pollen to fertilise the flowering of other works
  • compressed and dried for archival
  • pulped, fermented, remixed, or otherwise processed

What is free culture?

Free culture describes the natural state of intellectual works, that they should be unencumbered by privilege (of Copyright, established 1710), and is also the aspiration that all mankind’s culture should once again be so unencumbered. Being unencumbered, it would not suspend or derogate from the liberty of any individual (in audience or receipt), e.g. to publicly perform or make copies. Unfortunately, over 99% of all intellectual works in existence today are encumbered by privilege. However, it is possible to somewhat neutralise the privilege via license, e.g. via The Free Software Foundation’s General Public License (GPL) or Creative Commons’ Share Alike license. NB Accuracy in attribution is a moral right and not something to be compelled on threat of copyright’s severe penalty. Nor should anyone ever attempt to waive or alienate themselves from any of their natural rights (as CC0 aspires to).

Why is it called ‘free’?

Free culture is called ‘free’ because it comprises the set of published intellectual works that the public is free to do with ‘that which copyright excludes them from doing’, e.g. copying. NB It is not as per the aphorism, that ‘information wants to be free’, but that ‘people must be free to communicate’ – the former is simply an anthropomorphic epiphenomenon of the latter.

Joss Winn said 2522 days ago :

Why not just advocate putting work in the Public Domain?

Crosbie Fitch said 2522 days ago :

Joss, if only ‘twere so simple!

To publish a work is to place it in the public domain.

If you mean “Why not just advocate removing a work from copyright’s protection?”, then yes, this is what is attempted by copyleft licenses. Unfortunately, while a copyleft license is something a software engineer can accommodate, it is not particularly amenable to use by the laity.

We need a simple badge. Stick it on and it says “Fuck copyright. This is free culture. I will not sue!”

 

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