Oberseminar: Inclusive Ownership in the Realm of Free software
Participants of the free software community produce computer programs that can be employed, examined, distributed and modified without restriction. What started with a small group of software developers in the 1980s has grown into a full-blown techno-political movement that has changed the way software is produced. In the last ten years or so, free software has come to the attention of a global public because it so successfully provides access to resources that the conventional software industry has failed to deliver. In this paper I shall explore the concept of ownership in the realm of free software. I will start by introducing the phenomenon of free software and its key ideas and concepts. Thereafter I shall reflect on an ethnographic encounter that demonstrates the importance free software participants ascribe to legal questions of the ownership of intangible goods. This will illustrate the political stance they take against recent developments in this emerging field of national and trans-national legislation. Worldwide legal shifts concerning the ownership of intangible goods have a special significance to free software: they affect how and by whom computer-generated items in general and software in particular can be produced. International treaties, European directives and national bills, however, are not the main force shaping concepts of ownership in the free software community; legislation is only one contributing element. Free software participants understand ownership of their products as a much less formalised concept which – beyond legal enforceability – forms a central and rigid core of their ideology. The ethnographic examples in this paper show that free software remains inalienable to the person who produced it, and cannot be understood as a transactable object detached from her. This analysis will help us view free software as a practical critique of current and worldwide ownership regimes on intangible goods.
Referent: Bernhard Krieger, M.phil.
Montag, 08. Juni 2009, 18-20h, Raum 0.05