My own transition from copyright-apologist to free culture activist came through using the public library. I appreciate everything about public libraries and imagine what the world could be like if only they were stronger, more widespread, and used by everyone.
So, I was thinking about how I somewhat see all sorts of non-FLO approaches to publishing as anti-library. This isn’t fully refined as a concept, and I’m posting to inspire feedback.
A proposed publishing-for-libraries ethical principle
Anything published or otherwise available to the general public to access should be fully available to public libraries (including the Internet Archive). That includes soft multimedia (the public goods we focus on with Snowdrift.coop) and reusable physical goods (libraries of things, tool libraries etc).
So, every paywalled bit of media is an attack on public libraries. And that explains in a deeper sense why I feel so opposed to paywalls. Rather than explain all the broader economics, access justice issues etc., if anyone can understand the democratizing, liberating, immense value of public libraries, that gets the whole point across. I fear a potential future where so much culture and technology is excluded from libraries.
Side-note: concerns about safety around anything dangerous (e.g. weapons) are irrelevant to my points because the same policies for limiting public purchase of something should simply also apply to library access.
Anyway, perhaps the only key thing missing from this framing is freedom to make creative derivatives. Incidentally, my views on that were shaped by libraries too. It was through the public library that I reviewed a huge amount of materials on subjects I was studying (music in my case); and through that process I recognized most starkly both (A) the possibility of synthesizing better works by combining and updating what already exists and (B) how copyright law blocked me from actually doing that.
Could these thoughts be summarized into a pithy principle that could help people see the issues more clearly? I’m thinking like, “oh no, they’re adding a paywall, that means it can’t be in the library!” Ideally, this makes it clear why me paying the paywall for myself does not solve the tension at all.