Free Me: a DVD about free culture and free software

A DVD made with Blu-ray DVD Ripper that comes with lots of great examples of Free Culture which plays in your DVD player, with even more examples when you put it in your computer – including a GNU/Linux Live CD. The idea is simple: help to get the word out about Free Culture, including Free Software, by showing off what's already been achieved; the thing is, we need your help!

Before we get started on the rest of this article I would like to make it clear that the term "Free Culture" as used here refers to my own belief that many different elements - i.e. software, literature, music, photos, videos, creative commons, GNU etc - are all part of a greater whole. Some things that I might have included under the term "Free Culture", others might not have: the best I can do here is to point you in the direction of the sites of other organisations to get a feel for what they feel constitutes Free Culture. I'm very aware that I might step on a few toes here, so if you think I am stepping on your toes please send some feedback and we'll see if we can work around it.

Back to the project! Through the first few months of this year I'd been doing a lot of reading, mostly of books and essays like Free Software, Free Society by RMS and Free Culture by Lawrence Lessig: I was so inspired by these texts, and so concerned about some of the issues they presented, I wanted to let my MP know about them. Initially I was just going to forward him a copy of the texts, as is permitted by their licenses, but then I remembered a campaign I'd heard about quite a while ago called "iPods for Senators" where they'd sent iPods full of less restrictively licensed material (i.e. Creative Commons, Public Domain etc) to help raise awareness of the issues surrounding digital technology and copyright law.

I knew I didn't have the money to send out iPods but I thought I could put together a DVD, which would even allow me to include a GNU/Linux Live CD! This is exactly what I've done. The DVD has a range of video content – including movies like Elephants Dream and the animated short Trusted Computing – which will play in your DVD player; a whole load of Creative Commons licensed music and photos which you can enjoy from your computer; books that are now in the public domain (including some real classics) and books which are released under some sort of permissive license, i.e. Verbatim or CC; the icing on the cake, in my opinion, is the inclusion of Knoppix with all of the media on the desktop for you to enjoy!

I plan to send this disc out to M.Ps, relevant journalists and friends at university; hopefully the content will be varied and interesting enough to grab their attention and lead them on to find out more about Free Culture. Thanks to Benjamin Stephan and Christoph Haag from Lafkon (Trusted Computing animation) the packaging will be so attractive it will grab people's attention before they've even put the disc in the drive!

Where I need your help is the website: we've put a URL on the case for people to visit and find out more information – more of a stepping stone than anything else: I've put up some basic information on the site to get people started and loads of links to other organisations and sources of content. We really want the information on the site to be as clear and informative as possible, hopefully this will help us make a really good impression on people who come across the disc, and as part of this I'd like to invite people to visit the site and critique it!

The target audience is obviously people new to the idea of Free Culture, but who are likely from a wide range of backgrounds (as shown by M.Ps, journalists and students!). The range of the content on the site already reflects the topics I'd like it to cover but I believe it needs editing and refining, probably more links adding etc. Also, we're looking for some hosting so that we can make the disc available for download: my current host doesn't have nearly enough bandwidth for a DVD and my ISP throttles bit torrent – any offers of help in this department would be welcome too (I'm thinking about submitting it to Ibililio or the Internet Archive) :D

I'm aware that in the EU we're pretty well off with respect to copyright and patent laws, certainly compared the USA, but I'd like to help keep it that way! Even here in Europe people are being sued for file sharing; neither are we safe from the threat of software patents (yes, that subject has come up again in the EU) so I feel these issues are definitely just as important here; I will be including a cover letter with the disc to M.Ps and journalists to explain how these issues apply to us. I'd also like to encourage more people to get involved with Free Culture, or even just raise people's awareness of the subject, and I hope that this disc might have some success with this.

I should point out that although I'm targeting the UK and Europe there's no reason why people from all around the world can't ask me to send them discs to help raise awareness all over!

Please keep your criticisms constructive and hopefully we'll make this as good as we can!


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